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Standing up for democracy and science, BIO pauses all political donations

J.P. Carroll
J.P. Carroll
January 12, 2021

In the wake of the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol last week, Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) President and CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath condemned the attack and announced that all political donations by BIO would be put on hold while the organization reassesses its criteria for determining which candidates it will financially support.

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“These angry mobs were unleashed by the words and encouragement of the outgoing President of the United States,” she said.

“But it should be also clear that there are members of both the House and the Senate who helped encourage that behavior by their continued efforts to make baseless claims of voter fraud. Those claims have been thoroughly discredited and rejected by Republican and Democratic elected officials as well as numerous judges appointed by President Trump himself. There has been zero evidence of any voter fraud whatsoever,” she continued.

In response, BIO “will be pausing our political giving, so that we can reassess the criteria with which we support political candidates in the future,” said Dr. McMurry-Heath.

This announcement follows her January 7 statement condemning the “unconscionable” attacks.

Why is the biotech industry speaking out?

Dr. McMurry-Heath’s statements reflect the new strategic direction the organization announced last October. It’s based on five pillars:

  1. Be a voice of science and for science.
  2. Unite and empower biotech innovators and their ecosystem to improve lives.
  3. Remove barriers to innovation.
  4. Champion broad access to biotech breakthroughs and scientific quality.
  5. Catalyze resilient and sustainable bio-based economies.

This decision regarding political donations falls within BIO’s commitment to “be a voice of science and for science.”

“Science is real no matter what we do—it cares not if we believe in it or support it,” said Dr. McMurry-Heath in concluding yesterday’s statement.

“But democracy is only real when we actively defend it—and without democracy, real science cannot deliver real solutions.”

A voice for science

“Science is real, and it tells us with new, highly infectious strains of COVID circulating, time is of the essence. We must flatten this quickly steepening curve before health care is overwhelmed or exhausted, and before a vaccine resistant variant emerges,” explained Dr. McMurry-Heath on January 11.

“While we know how many people died on January 6, we may never know how many people died because of January 6,” she said. “To borrow a phrase from Langston Hughes, COVID has proven that innovation deferred is innovation denied.” (In the past week, COVID-19 cases in the Washington Metropolitan area have been soaring, reports DCist, and at least two Members of Congress tested positive following the riot, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey and Rep. Rep. Pramila Jayapal from Washington State.)

This isn’t the first time BIO has spoken out in support of science in the past year.

In July 2020, when defending the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease’s Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. McMurry-Heath asked, “What does it do to the morale of those armies of scientists to see our leaders disrespect one of the world’s most respected scientists? It discourages and distracts them from the critically important task at hand. And it erodes the public trust in the cures we are getting closer to everyday.”

“This is not a partisan issue,” she continued. “In order to further our shared goal of ending this pandemic, we must attack the disease and the misinformation in the public discourse and stop attacking science.”