US immigration order strikes against biotech

Mar 08, 2019

To the Editor:

We the undersigned, founders and leaders of biotech companies, write to express our deep concern and opposition to the executive order signed by President Donald Trump on January 27, 2017, barring the entry of citizens from seven countries into the United States1.

The United States is the world’s greatest developer of medicines and new inventions to ameliorate and cure intractable diseases, a status achieved through massive investment in private and public companies, academia and R&D. Most importantly, our success has been founded on the creativity and dedication of our most precious resource—our people.

Our people include researchers, clinicians, entrepreneurs and business executives from all over the world. They are colleagues in our laboratories, management teams and boardrooms. They discover and develop therapies that drive US biomedical innovation and deliver new medicines to patients, not only in America, but also across the globe. And they start companies that drive the economic growth and employment provided by biotech. Many of our colleagues from abroad ultimately become Americans, all to the great benefit of the United States. Indeed, a study found that in 2014, 52% of the 69,000 biomedical researchers in the United States were foreign-born2.

The biopharma industry originated in America and is dominated by American companies. US companies employ tenfold more people than European companies. Over the past decade, a total of $98.4 billion was invested in US emerging therapeutic companies through venture capital, follow-on public offerings and initial public offerings. US companies spent over $138 billion on upfront payments for in-licensing assets or acquiring global R&D-stage emerging companies. Larger US biopharma companies spent $161.7 billion over the past ten years on market-stage acquisitions.

The United States has led the world in medicine production for decades, not only because of its ability to finance drug discovery, but also because, more than any other country, the United States represents opportunity regardless of borders, gender, race, sexual orientation or political cast. This has enabled our industry to attract the best talent, wherever it is found. This aspect of our industry is a core reason the United States has built its unique strength in biopharmaceuticals.

At a stroke, the new administration has compromised years of investment in this national treasure. Our colleagues who are here on visas or are in global outposts are now fearful and uncertain of their status. Scientists based in other countries and employed by our companies are afraid to come to the United States or are canceling trips. The parents and families of immigrants who live and work in the United States are reluctant to attempt to travel to and from the United States.

Though the ban from the Trump administration is aimed at seven countries, our global employees interpret the underlying message as, “America is no longer welcoming of any immigrants, whatsoever.” They fear similar orders could be issued for other countries at a moment’s notice. They fear being stigmatized and discriminated against, simply because of their religion, irrespective of the nation they come from. Several among us have heard from employees about their deportation fears, how they do not feel comfortable leaving the country on business or how they now feel cut off from their family abroad.

Every nation has the right to determine who comes across its borders. Every nation needs to be vigilant in defending itself against and hunting down terrorists. The actions taken by the Trump administration, however, were poorly conceived and implemented; they have raised deep fears and concerns across the biotech industry, in which diversity and the free flow of ideas and people have created an American powerhouse of medicine.

If this misguided policy is not reversed, America is at risk of losing its leadership position in one of its most important sectors, one that will shape the world in the twenty-first century. Indeed, it will harm an industry dominated by smaller companies and startups, the very kind of industry the administration has said it wants to support. It will slow the fight against the many diseases that afflict us, as well as carry negative economic consequences for the United States.

America must remain the world’s greatest engine of innovation, as well as the beacon of liberty it has been for more than 200 years. The two are inextricably intertwined.

(On February 2, 2017, the United States District Court Western District of Washington at Seattle issued a temporary restraining order against the executive order that suspends its enforcement nationwide. The President has stated he will seek to overturn the ruling, but the restraining order remains in force while under appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit by the Department of Justice. As of 7pm on February 6, the federal appeals court has not yet ruled3.)

Jeremy M Levin1, Steven H Holtzman2, John Maraganore3, Paul J Hastings4, Ron Cohen5, Bassil I Dahiyat6, Julian Adams7, Chris Adams8, Brett Ahrens9, Jeff Albers10, Mara G Aspinall11, James Audia12, Martin Babler13, Peter Barrett14, Zoe Barry15, Nessan Bermingham16, Stephen Bloch17, Robert I Blum18, Paul B Bolono19, Michael W Bonney20, Bruce Booth21, Daniel M Bradbury22, Steven K Brauer23, Brook Byers24, Pablo J Cagnoni25, Brian M Cali26, Isaac Ciechanover27, Chip Clark28, Michael D Clayman29, Jeff L Cleland30, Paula Cobb31, Ron Cooper32, Mark G Currie33, John Diekman34, Eric l Dobmeier35, Doug Doerfler36, Deborah Dunsire37, Matthew During38, Jens W Eckstein39, Eric Elenko40, Neil A Exter41, Jonathan J Fleming42, Gregory J Flesher43, Jean-Francois Formela44, Robert Forrester45, Cedric Francois46, Heather Franklin47, Mason W Freeman48, Leonard Patrick Gage49, Nicolas Galakatos50, James A Geraghty51, Simba Gill52, David V Goeddel53, Mark A Goldsmith54, Maxine Gowen55, Tom Graney56, David Grayzel57, Barry Greene58, Paul Grint59, J C Gutierrez-Ramos60, Tuan Ha-Ngoc61, Bill Haney62, Faheem Hasnain63, Yujiro Steve Hata64, Peter Hecht65, Rich Heyman66, Herve Hoppenot67, H Robert Horvitz68, Thomas E Hughes69, Wende S Hutton70, Annalisa Jenkins71, Rachel King72, Vanessa King73, Nina Kjellson74, Gerhard Koenig75, Scott Koenig76, Peter Kolchinsky77, Paul Laikind78, Robert (Bob) Langer79, John J Lee80, Jonathan S Leff81, Nick Leschly82, Mark Levin83, Arnold Levine84, Alan Levy85, David Liu86, Harvey F Lodish87, Uri Lopatin88, Ted W Love89, Guy Macdonald90, Gail J Maderis91, Ankit Mahadevia92, Nagesh K Mahanthappa93, Joel F Martin94, W Eddie Martucci95, James McArthur96, Corey M McCann97, Sean A McCarthy98, C Geoffrey McDonough99, John Mendlein100, Diego Miralles101, Kenneth I Moch102, Bob Moore103, Andrew G Myers104, Michael A Narachi105, Amir Nashat106, William J Newell107, Bernat Olle108, John E Osborn109, Julia C Owens110, Atul Pande111, H Stewart Parker112, Kush M Parmar113, Matthew R Patterson114, Steve M Paul115, Rob Perez116, Matthew Perry117, Cary G Pfeffer118, Mike Powell119, Dennis J Purcell120, Amit Rakhit121, Kartick Ramamoorthi122, William Rastetter123, Adrian (Ad) Rawcliffe124, Laurence E Reid125, Jason P Rhodes126, William J Rieflin127, Chad Robins128, Scott M Rocklage129, Michael Rosenblatt130, Jonathan G Rosin131, William J Rutter132, Saurabh Saha133, Camille Samuels134, Vicki L Sato135, George Scangos136, John A Scarlett137, Stuart L Schreiber138, Andrew Schwab139, Paul Sekhri140, Thomas Shenk141, Clay B Siegall142, Nick J Simon143, Nancy Simonian144, Jeff Stein145, Michael Su146, Mary T Szela147, Henri Termeer148, Nancy A Thornberry149, Martin Tolar150, Richard Ulevitch151, Akshay K Vaishnaw152, Anne VanLent153, George P Vlasuk154, Michel Vounatsos155, Samuel G Waksal156, Neil Warma157, Ryan J Watts158, Yaron Werber159, Christoph Westphal160, Wendell Wierenga161, Doug E Williams162, Lewis (Rusty) Williams163, Kleanthis G Xanthopoulos164, Daphne Zohar165 & Sandford (Sandy) Zweifach166

1Ovid Therapeutics Inc., New York, New York, USA. 2Decibel Therapeutics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 3Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 4OncoMed Pharmaceuticals, Redwood City, California, USA. 5Acorda Therapeutics Inc., Ardsley, New York, USA. 6Xencor, Monrovia, California, USA. 7Clal Biotechnology Industries, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 8Cydan Development Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 9Caanan Partners, Menlo Park, California,USA.10Blueprint Medicines, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.11Health Catalysts, Tuscon, Arizona, USA. 12Constellation Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 13Principia Biopharma, South San Francisco, California, USA. 14Atlas Venture, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 15ZappRx, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 16Intellia Therapeutics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 17Caanan Partners, Westport, Connecticut, USA. 18Cytokinetics, Inc., South San Francisco, California, USA. 19Wave Life Sciences, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 20Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 21Atlas Venture, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 22Amylin Pharmaceuticals, San Diego, California, USA. 23Salus Discovery LLC, San Diego, California, USA. 24Investor, Menlo Park, California, USA. 25Tizona Therapeutics, Inc., South San Francisco, California, USA.  26Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 27Atara Bio, South San Francisco, California, USA. 28Genocea Biosciences, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 29Flexion Therapeutics, Burlington, Massachusetts, USA. 30Graybug Vision, Redwood City, California, USA. 31Decibel Therapeutics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 32Albireo Pharma Inc., Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 33Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 345AM Ventures, San Francisco, California, USA. 35Seattle Genetics, Bothell, Washington, USA. 36MaxCyte, Inc., Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA. 37Southern Cross Biotech Consulting, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA. 38Ovid Therapeutics Inc., New York, New York, USA. 39SR One, Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, USA. 40PureTech Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 41Third Rock Ventures, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 42Q-State Biosciences, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 43OticPharma Inc., Irvine, California, USA. 44Atlas Venture, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 45Verastem Inc., Needham, Massachusetts, USA. 46Apellis Pharmaceuticals, Crestwood, Kentucky, USA. 47Blaze Bioscience Inc., Seattle, Washington, USA. 485AM Ventures, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.49Tetraphase, Watertown, Massachusetts, USA. 50Clarus, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 51Juniper Pharmaceuticals, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 52Evelo Biosciences, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 53The Column Group, San Francisco, California, USA. 54Revolution Medicines, Inc., Redwood City, California, USA. 55Trevena Inc., King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, USA.56 Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 57Atlas Venture, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 58Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 59Regulus Therapeutics, San Diego, California, USA. 60Synlogic, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 61KEW, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 62Dragonfly Therapeutics, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 63FSG Biotech, San Diego, California, USA. 64IDEAYA Biosciences, South San Francisco, California, USA. 65Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 66Metacrine, Inc., San Diego, California, USA. 67Incyte, Wilmington, Delaware, USA. 68Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.  69Zafgen, Inc., Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 70Caanan Partners, Menlo Park, California, USA. 71Dimension Therapeutics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 72GlycoMimetics, Inc., Rockville, Maryland, USA. 73Luc Therapeutics, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 74Caanan Partners, Menlo Park, California, USA. 75Quartet Medicine, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 76MacroGenics, Inc., Rockville, Maryland, USA. 77RA Capital Management, LLC, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 78ViaCyte, Inc., San Diego, California, USA. 79Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 80Decibel Therapeutics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 81Deerfield Management, New York, New York, USA. 82Bluebird Bio, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 83Third Rock Ventures, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 84Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey, USA. 85Chrono Therapeutics, Hayward, California, USA. 86Editas Medicine, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 87Whitehead Institute MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 88Assembly Biosciences, Carmel, Indiana, USA. 89Global Blood Therapeutics, South San Francisco, California, USA. 90Tetraphase, Watertown, Massachusetts, USA. 91Antiva Biosciences, Inc., South San Francisco, California, USA. 92Spero Therapeutics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 93Scholar Rock, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 94Dauntless Pharmaceuticals, Inc., San Diego, California, USA. 95Akili Interactive, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 96Imara, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 97Pear Therapeutics, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 98CytomX, South San Francisco, California, USA. 99Sobi, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA.100aTyr Pharma, San Diego, California, USA. 101Adaptive Biotechnologies, Seattle, Washington, USA. 102Cognition Therapeutics, Inc., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. 103Alta Partners, San Francisco, California, USA. 104Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 105Orexigen Therapeutics, La Jolla, California, USA. 106Polaris Partners, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 107Sutro Biopharma, Inc., South San Francisco, California, USA. 108Vedanta Biosciences, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 109Egalet, Wayne, Pannsylvania, USA. 110Millendo Therapeutics, Inc., Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. 111Verity BioConsulting, San Diego, California, USA. 112Parker BioConsulting, Seattle, Washington, USA. 1135AM Ventures, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 114Audentes Therapeutics, Inc., San Francisco, California, USA. 115Voyager Therapeutics, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 116Life Science Cares, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 117BVF Partners, LP, San Francisco, California, USA. 118Third Rock Ventures, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 119Sofinnova Ventures, Menlo Park, California, USA. 120Aisling Capital LLC, New York, New York, USA. 121Ovid Therapeutics Inc., New York, New York, USA. 122Encoded Genomics, South San Francisco, California, USA. 123Neurocrine Biosciences Inc., San Diego, California, USA. 124Adaptimmune, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. 125Warp Drive Bio, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 126Atlas Venture, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 127NGM Biopharmaceuticals, Inc., South San Francisco, California, USA. 128Adaptive Biotechnologies, Seattle, Washington, USA. 1295AM Ventures, San Francisco, California, USA. 130Flagship Pioneering, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 131Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 132Synergenics, LLC, San Francisco, California, USA. 133Delinia, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 134Venrock, Palo Alto, California, USA. 135Harvard Business School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 136Vir Bio, San Francisco, California, USA. 137Geron Corporation, Menlo Park, California, USA. 138Broad Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 1395AM Ventures, San Francisco, California, USA. 140Lycera Corporation, New York, New York, USA. 141Lewis Thomas Laboratory, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, USA. 142Seattle Genetics, Inc., Bothell, Washington, USA. 143Clarus Ventures LLC, South San Francisco, California, USA. 144Syros Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 145Cidara Therapeutics, San Diego, California, USA. 146Decibel Therapeutics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 147Novelion Therapeutics, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. 148Formerly of Genzyme, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.149Kallyope, New York, New York, USA. 150Alzheon, Framingham, Massachusetts, USA. 1515AM Ventures, La Jolla, California, USA. 152Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 153AMV Advisors, Princeton, New Jersey, USA. 154Navitor Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 155Biogen, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.156MeiraGTx, New York, New York, USA.157Opexa Therapeutics, Inc., The Woodlands, Texas, USA. 158Denali Therapeutics, Inc., South San Francisco, California, USA. 159Ovid Therapeutics, Inc., New York, New York, USA. 160Flex Pharma, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 161Crinetics Pharmaceuticals, San Diego, California, USA. 162Codiak BioSciences, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 163Five Prime Therapeutics, Inc., South San Francisco, California, USA. 164Cerus, La Jolla, California, USA. 165PureTech Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 166Nuvelution Pharmaceuticals, Inc., South San Francisco, California, USA.

  1. The White House. Executive Order: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, Jan. 27, 2017.
  2. Heggeness, M.L., Gunsalus, K.T.W., Pacas, J. & McDowell , G. Nature 541, 21–23 (2017).
  3. 17-35105 State of Washington & State of Minnesota v. Trump. WD Wash. 2:17-cv-141, Judge Robart.

PDF of letter: US immigration order strikes against biotech

Brady Huggett

Editor, Nature Biotechnology

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