Martin Flanagan: Biotech hits back over Trump travel ban

Donald Trump's immigration ban has sparked protests around the world. Picture: Dita Alangkara/AP
Donald Trump's immigration ban has sparked protests around the world. Picture: Dita Alangkara/AP
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Chief executives of more than 160 biotech companies have put their Big Pharma counterparts to shame by protesting publicly about US President Donald Trump’s immigration ban.

In an open letter to the website of Nature, the scientific journal, the biotech bosses say they are “deeply concerned” and unequivocally opposed to the action.

They say America’s status as the world’s “greatest developer of medicines” has been based on it sourcing top researchers, clinicians and executives from around the globe. The letter alludes to research, also published on the Nature website, showing that in 2014 more than half of the 69,000 biomedical researchers working Stateside were born overseas.

READ MORE: Asian cash targets UK over US after Trump tariff threat

Symbolically, it places the biotech sector in the same camp as Silicon Valley tech giants such as Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Apple that, to their credit, have also nailed their colours to the mast in opposing Trump’s immigration clampdown.

They, like the biotechs, attract a heavy proportion of their workforces from overseas. By contrast, most of the pharmaceutical majors have decided that discretion is the better part of valour on the ban, whose legality may well end up in the US Supreme Court, for fear of making an enemy of the tweet-toothed President.

Big Pharma will have noted Big Auto’s supine response to presidential pressure on the site of industrial manufacturing – and decided that, as far as open opposition to this White House is concerned, the game is not worth the candle.

Even so, it is nice whenever business sectors don’t just pen turgid mission statements, but actually say something right and relevant in the real world. The biotech chiefs have done so.

Nothing, then two damp squibs

Perhaps it’s catching. The UK government’s newly unveiled housing policy has received the same lukewarm response as its recent industrial strategy, which was also deemed as underwhelming and a bit of a distraction

Both strategies appear to be incremental improvement-driven, without any radical solution stardust. We may be talking about the UK’s housing crisis and industrial strategy blind alley for some time yet, then.

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