Supporting US public health experts

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To the editor:

As CEOs of biotechnology companies, we are writing this letter in support of US National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) director Anthony Fauci and the institutions and organizations that are working tirelessly to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The biotechnology industry is the worlds greatest innovation engine for creating new medicines and vaccines that improve the human condition. It is a strategic asset to the nation. The past few decades have shown extraordinary progress in our ability to fight disease. This year, our industry has risen to the challenge of overcoming the deadly pandemic that has gripped the world, putting that engine to work at miraculous speed to develop therapies and vaccines.

To do so most effectively requires close collaboration among biopharmaceutical companies, regulatory authorities such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), public health authorities such as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), federal, state and local government authorities, scientific and medical institutions, such as the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), and world experts in epidemiology and infectious disease, most prominently, Anthony Fauci. As we come ever closer to producing safe, effective therapies for COVID-19, it is critical that all of these institutions and experts work together to ensure the best, most rapid possible outcomes for all Americans and, indeed, for people worldwide.

The institutions of the CDC, the FDA and NIH comprise tens of thousands of men and women who care deeply about society and making the world a better place. These nameless individuals represent our ‘United Armed Forces’ against COVID-19. They fight with brains instead of weapons, displaying the same courage and dedication as our armed forces in times of war, and they deserve our eternal gratitude. We and the associates of our companies consider that we fight alongside these individuals as part of the same cause, wielding science against our common adversary.

However, we are concerned that various parties in this critical coalition have come under politically motivated attacks. Targets have included, among others, the FDA, the CDC and Fauci; in Faucis case this has occurred to the point where he now requires a security detail. Not only are these attacks completely unjustified, they risk intimidating and demoralizing the very people we all are relying on to help end the COVID-19 nightmare. As such, they are irresponsible and a pose danger to us all.

Fauci is a giant of epidemiology, one of the world’s most respected scientists in infectious diseases, and an American hero who has served multiple administrations—both Republican and Democratic—for decades. He has recommended measures that have saved likely scores of thousands of lives in our country. Had his counsel been taken more widely, even more lives could have been saved. Unfortunately, the United States today has experienced the largest number of deaths from COVID-19 of any country in the world.

When a public servant of Fauci’s caliber is attacked, it puts our collective efforts, and the safety of the American public, at risk. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) posted on Twitter: “Dr. Fauci is one of our country’s most distinguished public servants,” and “If more Americans paid attention to his advice, we’d have fewer cases of COVID-19, & it would be safer to go back to school & back to work & out to eat.”

This is the sort of responsible, truthful support that is needed from our public officials. Many of our colleagues and friends are working as part of Operation Warp Speed; we stand united with them, with the many good people at FDA, CDC and NIH, and with Dr. Fauci, in upholding the high scientific, medical and ethical principles that will allow us to defeat COVID-19.

Acknowledgments

This letter represents solely the individual and personal views of the authors and signatories, and not those of their company.

Authors

Ron Cohen, President and CEO, Acorda Therapeutics; Cedric Francois, President and CEO, Apellis Pharmaceuticals; John Crowley, Chairman and CEO, Amicus Therapeutics; Paul Hastings, President and CEO, Nkarta Therapeutics; Rachel King, CEO, GlycoMimetics; Ted W. Love, President and CEO, Global Blood Therapeutics; John Maraganore, CEO, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals; Michelle McMurry-Heath, President and CEO, Biotechnology Innovation Organization; Jeremy Levin, Chairman and CEO, Ovid Therapeutics, and Chairman, Biotechnology Innovation Organization

Jeremy Levin

CEO, Ovid Therapeutics

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There can’t be a question about the place that science and data driven decision making need to take in any modern society. There can’t be a question about the weight that accomplished scientists and subject matter experts need to have in the decision making process of our complex world, and certainly not a question when it comes to matters of public health under the most challenging and threatening circumstances of a pandemic. The integrity of our societal fabric, our ability to maintain functional spaces for individuals, families, communities, states and our country do depend on rationale minds who can deliver factual information and translate facts into plausible, believable and achievable solutions for the country and all of us, and who are not feeding into a baseless fiction of how we should be and should behave.

Dr Anthony Fauci has been a steward, a stalwart of integrity, authenticity and truth. He and all our esteemed and respected colleagues in public health offices, at the CDC, the FDA etc and their teams need to be thanked and applauded, in fact they can’t be thanked enough, for their always hard and honest work in fighting against COVID-19 in a concerningly politicized and anti-science environment.