What Trump’s immigration ban means for biotech innovation

June 24, 2020
We have a lot of news today. We examine President Trump’s recent immigration proclamation and what it means for biotech innovation, as well as takeaways from yesterday’s Senate HELP Committee hearing on pandemic preparedness. Read to the end for news from inside the…
BIO

We have a lot of news today. We examine President Trump’s recent immigration proclamation and what it means for biotech innovation, as well as takeaways from yesterday’s Senate HELP Committee hearing on pandemic preparedness. Read to the end for news from inside the beltway, including a preview of today’s Senate Agriculture hearing on legislation that could support biotech solutions for climate change. Here are around 850 words, or 4 minutes.

What Trump’s immigration ban means for biotech innovation

On Monday, the Trump administration announced new immigration restrictions that will deter the biotech industry’s ability to attract the world’s best and brightest scientists to our labs and companies—at a time when, obviously, we need them the most. Here’s what you need to know.

The proclamation: On June 22, President Trump issued a proclamation banning the entry of foreign workers with H-1B, H-2B, J, L visas, and green cards who are not already in the United States through the end of the year.

Who typically gets these visas? As just two examples, the H-1B visa is given to foreign faculty members hired by universities, and employees hired by tech firms, explains Nature

Are scientists and medical professionals exempt? There is a limited exemption for individuals working directly on COVID-19; this narrows “a broad exemption in an April 22 ban for individuals involved in medical fields, including research,” explains BioCentury.

The justification: The administration says allowing these workers to enter the country “presents a significant threat to employment opportunities for Americans affected by the extraordinary economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.” 

The reality: The biotech industry needs immigrants—and the United States needs the biotech industry to succeed to bring us out of the COVID-19 crisis, find cures for diseases, and solve global challenges like climate change and food security. 

Jeanne’s Judgment: To end the COVID-19 crisis and drive innovation in medicine, climate change, agriculture and food security, and clean fuels, the world needs the biotech industry—and the biotech industry needs the world’s top scientists, no matter their country of origin. – Jeanne Haggerty, BIO’s EVP of Advocacy

 
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Why partnerships matter in pandemic preparedness

Yesterday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee examined lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. The takeaway? Partnerships matter—in this pandemic, and whatever comes next.

The hearing: Lessons Learned for the Next Pandemic featured several experts, including Dr. Julie Gerberding, EVP and Chief Patient Officer at Merck and former Director of the CDC (and BIO Board member!). 

Dr. Gerberding spoke about the value of private and public cooperation in pandemic preparedness: “I think a partnership model works best. We must not remove the incentives for the biopharmaceutical industry to continue to innovate. It’s that innovation that’s gotten this far this fast in this particular pandemic.” 


 
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Why it matters: The biotech industry is racing to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19—and nearly 600 programs are currently underway, all thanks in part to these kind of partnerships. 

What’s next: As the hearing was getting underway, BIO released preparedness recommendations for policymakers to explore, including ensuring a functioning market, strengthening public-private partnerships, and building resilient manufacturing capacity. 

Phyllis’ Take: Senate HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) are to be applauded for their leadership. We look forward to answering Chairman Alexander’s call for input with a comprehensive set of recommendations that will help ensure our nation is better prepared for future infectious disease outbreaks and other biosecurity threats. – Phyllis Arthur, BIO’s VP of Infectious Diseases and Diagnostics Policy 

Watch the full hearing on C-SPAN.

 

More Health Care News:

NPR: A year in, 1st patient to get gene editing for sickle cell disease is thriving
“The billions of genetically modified cells doctors infused into her body clearly appear to be alleviating virtually all the complications of her disorder, sickle cell disease.” 

Reuters: Inovio gets $71 million from U.S. defense department for COVID-19 vaccine device
“Cellectra is a small, hand-held device that can be stockpiled in large quantities without maintenance. Inovio said a previous version of the device has been used in clinical trials to safely dose more than 2,000 patients.” 

The Wall Street Journal: Fauci says health officials haven’t been told to slow coronavirus testing
“At a hearing Tuesday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Dr. Fauci said he and his colleagues haven’t ‘ever been told to slow down on testing.’”

 
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President Trump’s Wednesday: Meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Washington.

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: Both the House and Senate are looking at police reform legislation; Senate Democrats are expected to filibuster the Republican-led JUSTICE Act today, reports POLITICO. Meanwhile, we’re watching a Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry hearing on S. 3894, The Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2020; here’s our statement ahead of the hearing, which kicks off at 10 AM ET.

 
 
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IN MEMORIAM: MARQUS VALENTINE

We’d like to take a moment to remember Marqus Valentine, brother of Ashley Valentine, the co-founder of Sick Cells. He passed away on Monday, June 22. Ashley spoke during the BIO Digital fireside chat on her brother’s difficult experiences with sickle cell disease and the importance of patient advocacy and clinical trials. To learn more, read the recap of the session and watch this clip of Ashley speaking about the importance of patient advocacy.  

 
In Memoriam: Marqus Valentine, Co-Founder, Sick Cells