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Letter Criticizes Actions

More than a hundred individuals working in academia, venture capital, and pharmaceuticals have signed a letter condemning how government agencies and research institutions in the US have recently treated Chinese and Chinese-American scientists.

About a year ago, Francis Collins, the head of the US National Institutes of Health noted that he was concerned about threats to the "robustness" of the biomedical enterprise in the US and was particularly concerned about researchers who may have received undeclared funds from foreign governments or who might be sharing confidential peer review information or who might divert intellectual property. In March, the agency sent letters to a number of US institutions to inquire about researchers there who might have undisclosed ties to foreign governments, and this led to the dismissal in April of three researchers from MD Anderson Cancer Center and in May of two researchers from Emory University. All of those dismissed were either Chinese or Americans of Chinese heritage, according to reports, leading to concerns of racism.

This, Decibel Therapeutics' Steven Holtzman and the other signatories say in their letter, posted to a Nature Research Bioengineering community page, has led to a "climate of fear and uncertainty" in the biomedical sciences. In the letter, they note that though there should be safeguards to prevent IP theft and espionage, curtailing the contributions of Chinese and Chinese-American scientists would harm US interests.

"If we are to prevail in humanity's common quest to conquer disease, our surest route is to include any person able to contribute, regardless of country of origin, religion, race, gender, or other identity," the letter says. "The US biomedical community stands for the principles of diversity and unity embedded in the founding principles of our country, without which our leadership indeed will soon be lost."