Eleven days after President Donald Trump signed an executive order barring immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries, biotech CEOs, founders, and venture capitalists are speaking out.
Many industries have spoken out over the last week and a half opposing Trump’s immigration ban, which has since been placed on hold by a federal judge. In contrast, the major players in the pharmaceutical industry have remained largely silent.
Now, biotech companies — a mix of private and public companies that have drugs in development — are picking up the torch.
In a letter signed by 165 members of the biotech community and published in Nature Biotechnology on Tuesday, the leaders wrote to “express our deep concern and opposition to the executive order.”
The drug industry is historically global. Citing data from 2014, the letter said that roughly half of the 69,000 biomedical researchers working in the US are foreign-born.
If the executive order isn’t reversed, the executives warned, “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.”
Here’s the crux of the biotech leaders’ concern (emphasis ours):
“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 cancelling 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 US.”
“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 stigmatised 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.”