Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Biotech Industry Takes A Stance Against Immigration Ban

For those who are unaware of the span of the field of "Biotechnology" look no further than the introduction on the "Wikipedia page" shown below:

Biotechnology is the use of living systems and organisms to develop or make products, or "any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use" (UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Art. 2).[1] Depending on the tools and applications, it often overlaps with the (related) fields of bioengineering, biomedical engineering, biomanufacturing, molecular engineering, etc.
For thousands of years, humankind has used biotechnology in agriculture, food production, and medicine.[2] The term is largely believed to have been coined in 1919 by Hungarian engineer Károly Ereky. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, biotechnology has expanded to include new and diverse sciences such as genomics, recombinant gene techniques, applied immunology, and development of pharmaceutical therapies and diagnostic tests.[2]

As you can see, the span of the field of biotechnology touches almost every aspect of our lives.  Increasingly, developments in the field are transcending boundaries into extraordinary areas which were previously thought to be unrelated.  With the threat to the industry from President Trump's recent immigration ban (executive order -- travel ban) being in deliberation (under question), many professionals from the field have signed onto a letter for their voices to be collectively heard.

Below is the letter -- which hopefully will get spread throughout the United States to show how such a ban would threaten the industry which is responsible for our health and well-being.

Biotech Takes Collective Action

The biotech industry is currently being bombarded with multiple threats.  First and foremost is the possible restructuring of prescription drug prices by the Trump Administration.  Additionally, the industry received a break from the Trump administration when the announcement was made that the US Food & Drug Administration would be "deregulated" with regard to certain prescription drugs for terminally-ill cancer patients and other diseases.

There is no doubt that the costs of drug prices have gone through the roof.  Although, as I wrote in a previous post, there is a good reason for that cost (research, clinical trials, regulatory procedures, etc.).  For a brief introduction into the process of designing drugs, see the following post from last year.

A different threat which looms large at the doorstep of various industries in the biotechnology sector is the problem of the recent immigration ban (executive order -- travel ban) recently implemented by President Trump.  As various news outlets have reported on over the last week, there are many problems with the language in the ban.  Some feel like the ban was not written properly and is unconstitutional.  Currently, there is a hold on the 'implementation of the ban' while the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (in California) is deliberating on the constitutionality of the ban.

To the point of this blog, the biotech industry feels threatened by the ban.  In the letter below, one paragraph stands out (among others) in my mind which is true of all science with regard to effect of the ban on science research:

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.

If the feeling is true for immigrants in this country, then the entire country should be ashamed.  We should be ashamed at ourselves for thinking that such a ban would be good for the nation.  No person should feel like they do not belong in this country if they are here legally.  Even if they are here seeking asylum, they should have the same opportunities that each American has been born with.  We are a nation of immigrants.  And every citizen improves science with their unique experience.

We are a global nation.  The concept of a country is rather outdated.  Since home can be spread throughout the world.  A scientist who works at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena (California, USA) may call Pasadena a "local home".  Although, their country of birth might have been one of the seven banned countries.  Home has a new meaning in this global world.

Below is the full letter which is signed by over 166 leaders in the field of biotechnology.  The names and affiliations can be found at the very end of the blog post.  Without further ado, here is the full letter from leaders in the biotech industry:

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.)

The leaders felt so strong that the letter was drafted.  Other scientific organizations have paused for concern about speaking out about science in the current administration.  I believe that any leader in any field of science should speak up.  In fact, the disparity associated with the lack of funding for scientific research is directly linked to scientists across the globe remaining silent about science.


The public needs to hear about the importance of science in the community, state, federal level, and the world at large.  Only then will the citizens of the Earth understand the implications of defunding science.  Defunding science is taking away money that is meant to find cures for diseases, new forms of energy, research new materials which can be renewable.  Our daily lives cannot go on without science.

Everything that we do depends on science.  Scientists are constantly changing (updating their knowledge) and learning new strategies about which the world operates.  The results of which belong to you -- the tax-payer.  Each of us, regardless of being affiliated with science or not professionally should want to be more engaged in the scientific research which is emerging on a daily basis.

Below is a list of the leaders of the biotech industry which attached their name and affiliation to the letter above.  Take some time and look over the span of names of organizations which believe this executive order to be a threat to their companies well-being.  Without them, think about how research into various sectors would progress forward.

Maybe its time to listen to the experts!

Until next time, Have a great day!


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.

Leaders of biotech industry who signed the petition:

Jeremy M Levin11Ovid Therapeutics Inc., New York, New York, USA. 
Steven H Holtzman22Decibel Therapeutics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
John Maraganore3 3Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Paul J Hastings4 4OncoMed Pharmaceuticals, Redwood City, California, USA. 
Ron Cohen55Acorda Therapeutics Inc., Ardsley, New York, USA. 
Bassil I Dahiyat66Xencor, Monrovia, California, USA.
Julian Adams7 7Clal Biotechnology Industries, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 
Chris Adams88Cydan Development Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 
Brett Ahrens99Caanan Partners, Menlo Park, California,USA.
Jeff Albers1010Blueprint Medicines, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Mara G Aspinall1111Health Catalysts, Tuscon, Arizona, USA. 
James Audia1212Constellation Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 
Martin Babler1313Principia Biopharma, South San Francisco, California, USA.
Peter Barrett14 14Atlas Venture, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Zoe Barry15 15ZappRx, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 
Nessan Bermingham1616Intellia Therapeutics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 
Stephen Bloch17,17Caanan Partners, Westport, Connecticut, USA. 
Robert I Blum1818Cytokinetics, Inc., South San Francisco, California, USA. 
Paul B Bolono1919Wave Life Sciences, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 
Michael W Bonney2020Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Bruce Booth21 21Atlas Venture, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Daniel M Bradbury22 22Amylin Pharmaceuticals, San Diego, California, USA. 
Steven K Brauer2323Salus Discovery LLC, San Diego, California, USA. 
Brook Byers24 24Investor, Menlo Park, California, USA.
Pablo J Cagnoni25, 25Tizona Therapeutics, Inc., South San Francisco, California, USA. 
Brian M Cali26 26Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Isaac Ciechanover2727Atara Bio, South San Francisco, California, USA.
Chip Clark28, 28Genocea Biosciences, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Michael D Clayman29 29Flexion Therapeutics, Burlington, Massachusetts, USA. 
Jeff L Cleland3030Graybug Vision, Redwood City, California, USA.
Paula Cobb31 31Decibel Therapeutics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Ron Cooper32 32Albireo Pharma Inc., Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 
Mark G Currie3333Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 
John Diekman34 345AM Ventures, San Francisco, California, USA.
Eric l Dobmeier35 35Seattle Genetics, Bothell, Washington, USA. 
Doug Doerfler3636MaxCyte, Inc., Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA. 
Deborah Dunsire3737Southern Cross Biotech Consulting, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA.
Matthew During38 38Ovid Therapeutics Inc., New York, New York, USA.
Jens W Eckstein39 39SR One, Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, USA.
Eric Elenko40 40PureTech Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 
Neil A Exter4141Third Rock Ventures, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 
Jonathan J Fleming4242Q-State Biosciences, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Gregory J Flesher43 43OticPharma Inc., Irvine, California, USA. 
Jean-Francois Formela4444Atlas Venture, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Robert Forrester45 45Verastem Inc., Needham, Massachusetts, USA. 
Cedric Francois4646Apellis Pharmaceuticals, Crestwood, Kentucky, USA. 
Heather Franklin4747Blaze Bioscience Inc., Seattle, Washington, USA.
Mason W Freeman48 485AM Ventures, Boston, Massachusetts, 
Leonard Patrick Gage49USA.49Tetraphase, Watertown, Massachusetts, USA. 
Nicolas Galakatos5050Clarus, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
James A Geraghty5151Juniper Pharmaceuticals, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Simba Gill52 52Evelo Biosciences, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
David V Goeddel53 53The Column Group, San Francisco, California, USA.
Mark A Goldsmith5454Revolution Medicines, Inc., Redwood City, California, USA.
Maxine Gowen55 55Trevena Inc., King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, USA.
Tom Graney5656 Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 
David Grayzel5757Atlas Venture, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Barry Greene58 58Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 
Paul Grint5959Regulus Therapeutics, San Diego, California, USA.
J C Gutierrez-Ramos60 60Synlogic, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Tuan Ha-Ngoc61 61KEW, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Bill Haney62 62Dragonfly Therapeutics, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Faheem Hasnain63 63FSG Biotech, San Diego, California, USA.
Yujiro Steve Hata64 64IDEAYA Biosciences, South San Francisco, California, USA.
Peter Hecht6565Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 
Rich Heyman6666Metacrine, Inc., San Diego, California, USA. 
Herve Hoppenot6767Incyte, Wilmington, Delaware, USA. 
H Robert Horvitz68 68Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 
Thomas E Hughes69 69Zafgen, Inc., Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 
Wende S Hutton7070Caanan Partners, Menlo Park, California, USA.
Annalisa Jenkins71 71Dimension Therapeutics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 
Rachel King7272GlycoMimetics, Inc., Rockville, Maryland, USA.
Vanessa King73 73Luc Therapeutics, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 
Nina Kjellson7474Caanan Partners, Menlo Park, California, USA. 
Gerhard Koenig75,75Quartet Medicine, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Scott Koenig7676MacroGenics, Inc., Rockville, Maryland, USA. 
Peter Kolchinsky7777RA Capital Management, LLC, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Paul Laikind78 78ViaCyte, Inc., San Diego, California, USA. 
Robert (Bob) Langer7979Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
John J Lee8080Decibel Therapeutics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Jonathan S Leff81 81Deerfield Management, New York, New York, USA..
Nick Leschly82 82Bluebird Bio, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Mark Levin83 83Third Rock Ventures, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Arnold Levine84 84Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey, USA.
Alan Levy85 85Chrono Therapeutics, Hayward, California, USA.
David Liu86 86Editas Medicine, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Harvey F Lodish87, 87Whitehead Institute MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Uri Lopatin88 88Assembly Biosciences, Carmel, Indiana, USA.
Ted W Love89 89Global Blood Therapeutics, South San Francisco, California, USA. 
Guy Macdonald9090Tetraphase, Watertown, Massachusetts, USA.
Gail J Maderis9191Antiva Biosciences, Inc., South San Francisco, California, USA.
Ankit Mahadevia92 92Spero Therapeutics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 
Nagesh K Mahanthappa9393Scholar Rock, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 

Joel F Martin9494Dauntless Pharmaceuticals, Inc., San Diego, California, USA.

W Eddie Martucci95 95Akili Interactive, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

James McArthur96 96Imara, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 

Corey M McCann9797Pear Therapeutics, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 

Sean A McCarthy9898CytomX, South San Francisco, California, USA. 

C Geoffrey McDonough9999Sobi, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA.

John Mendlein100100aTyr Pharma, San Diego, California, USA

Diego Miralles101101Adaptive Biotechnologies, Seattle, Washington, USA. 

Kenneth I Moch102102Cognition Therapeutics, Inc., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. 

Bob Moore103103Alta Partners, San Francisco, California, USA.

Andrew G Myers104 104Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Michael A Narachi105 105Orexigen Therapeutics, La Jolla, California, USA.

Amir Nashat106 106Polaris Partners, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 

William J Newell107107Sutro Biopharma, Inc., South San Francisco, California, USA. 

Bernat Olle108108Vedanta Biosciences, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 

John E Osborn109109Egalet, Wayne, Pannsylvania, USA. 

Julia C Owens110110Millendo Therapeutics, Inc., Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.

Atul Pande111 111Verity BioConsulting, San Diego, California, USA.

H Stewart Parker112112Parker BioConsulting, Seattle, Washington, USA. 

Kush M Parmar113,1135AM Ventures, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Matthew R Patterson114114Audentes Therapeutics, Inc., San Francisco, California, USA.

Steve M Paul115 115Voyager Therapeutics, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Rob Perez116 116Life Science Cares, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 

Matthew Perry117117BVF Partners, LP, San Francisco, California, USA.

Cary G Pfeffer118 118Third Rock Ventures, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 

Mike Powell119119Sofinnova Ventures, Menlo Park, California, USA. 

Dennis J Purcell120120Aisling Capital LLC, New York, New York, USA.

Amit Rakhit121 121Ovid Therapeutics Inc., New York, New York, USA. 

Kartick Ramamoorthi122122Encoded Genomics, South San Francisco, California, USA.

William Rastetter123 123Neurocrine Biosciences Inc., San Diego, California, USA. 

Adrian (Ad) Rawcliffe124124Adaptimmune, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. 

Laurence E Reid125125Warp Drive Bio, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Jason P Rhodes126 126Atlas Venture, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

William J Rieflin127 127NGM Biopharmaceuticals, Inc., South San Francisco, California, USA.

Chad Robins128, 128Adaptive Biotechnologies, Seattle, Washington, USA. 

Scott M Rocklage1291295AM Ventures, San Francisco, California, USA.

Michael Rosenblatt130 130Flagship Pioneering, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 

Jonathan G Rosin131131Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

William J Rutter132 132Synergenics, LLC, San Francisco, California, USA. 

Saurabh Saha133133Delinia, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Camille Samuels134 134Venrock, Palo Alto, California, USA.

Vicki L Sato135 135Harvard Business School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

George Scangos136 136Vir Bio, San Francisco, California, USA. 

John A Scarlett137137Geron Corporation, Menlo Park, California, USA.

Stuart L Schreiber138 138Broad Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 

Andrew Schwab1391395AM Ventures, San Francisco, California, USA.

Paul Sekhri140 140Lycera Corporation, New York, New York, USA.

Thomas Shenk141 141Lewis Thomas Laboratory, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, USA. 

Clay B Siegall142142Seattle Genetics, Inc., Bothell, Washington, USA.

Nick J Simon143 143Clarus Ventures LLC, South San Francisco, California, USA.

Nancy Simonian144144Syros Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 

Jeff Stein145145Cidara Therapeutics, San Diego, California, USA.

Michael Su146 146Decibel Therapeutics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Mary T Szela147 147Novelion Therapeutics, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Henri Termeer148 148Formerly of Genzyme, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Nancy A Thornberry149149Kallyope, New York, New York, USA.

Martin Tolar150 150Alzheon, Framingham, Massachusetts, USA.

Richard Ulevitch151 1515AM Ventures, La Jolla, California, USA.

Akshay K Vaishnaw152 152Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Anne VanLent153 153AMV Advisors, Princeton, New Jersey, USA.

George P Vlasuk154 154Navitor Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 

Michel Vounatsos155155Biogen, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Samuel G Waksal156.156MeiraGTx, New York, New York, USA.

Neil Warma157157Opexa Therapeutics, Inc., The Woodlands, Texas, USA. 

Ryan J Watts158,158Denali Therapeutics, Inc., South San Francisco, California, USA. 

Yaron Werber159159Ovid Therapeutics, Inc., New York, New York, USA. 

Christoph Westphal160160Flex Pharma, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Wendell Wierenga161 161Crinetics Pharmaceuticals, San Diego, California, USA.

Doug E Williams162 162Codiak BioSciences, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Lewis (Rusty) Williams163163Five Prime Therapeutics, Inc., South San Francisco, California, USA.

Kleanthis G Xanthopoulos164 164Cerus, La Jolla, California, USA.

Daphne Zohar165  165PureTech Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 

Sandford (Sandy) Zweifach166166Nuvelution Pharmaceuticals, Inc., South San Francisco, California, USA.

1 comment:

  1. Haim Toledano
    Very informative blog. I am completely agree with the author. Biotech industry work to improve the life with the use of science. Great achievements in the field of agriculture and health sector.