Some 170 biotech company executives say that the recent executive order banning immigrants from seven countries from entering the US is "misguided" and will put the US "at risk of losing its leadership position" in biotech.
Last month, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that barred citizens of seven countries from entering the US for at least 90 days and blocked refugees from entering the country for 120 days and Syrian refugees indefinitely. While a court in Washington State has issued a temporary restraining order that suspends the enforcement of the ban, that ruling is being appealed.
If the ban persists, biotech executives say it will harm the biomedical industry, as they write in a letter appearing in Nature Biotechnology. The letter-writers — which include Alnylam Pharmaceuticals' John Maraganore, the Broad Institute's Stuart Schreiber, Adaptive Biotechnologies' Diego Miralles, and Daphne Zohar of PureTech Health, among others — note that more than half the 69,000 biomedical researchers in the US were born abroad.
While not all come from the countries affected by the ban, they argue that the order creates an environment in which immigrants, regardless of their origin, no longer feel welcome. According to the letter's authors, both investment in drug discovery and the inclusiveness of the US has allowed the biopharma industry to attract the best and the brightest workers. But now, researchers are worried the ban will be extended to include other countries and that they will be discriminated against.
"At a stroke, the new administration has compromised years of investment in this national treasure," the letter says.
It adds that the ban has "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" and that it needs to be reversed.