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Supporting US public health experts

An Author Correction to this article was published on 17 December 2020

This article has been updated

To the Editor — As CEOs of biotechnology companies, we are writing this letter in support of US National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) director Anthony Fauci and the institutions and organizations that are working tirelessly to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The biotechnology industry is the world’s greatest innovation engine for creating new medicines and vaccines that improve the human condition. It is a strategic asset to the nation. The past few decades have shown extraordinary progress in our ability to fight disease. This year, our industry has risen to the challenge of overcoming the deadly pandemic that has gripped the world, putting that engine to work at miraculous speed to develop therapies and vaccines.

To do so most effectively requires close collaboration among biopharmaceutical companies; regulatory authorities such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA); public health authorities such as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); federal, state and local government authorities; scientific and medical institutions, such as the US National Institutes of Health (NIH); and world experts in epidemiology and infectious disease — most prominently, Anthony Fauci. As we come ever closer to producing safe, effective therapies for COVID-19, it is critical that all of these institutions and experts work together to ensure the best, most rapid possible outcomes for all Americans and, indeed, for people worldwide.

The institutions of the CDC, FDA and NIH comprise tens of thousands of men and women who care deeply about society and making the world a better place. These nameless individuals represent our ‘United Armed Forces’ against COVID-19. They fight with brains instead of weapons, displaying the same courage and dedication as our armed forces in times of war, and they deserve our eternal gratitude. We and the associates of our companies consider that we fight alongside these individuals as part of the same cause, wielding science against our common adversary.

However, we are concerned that various parties in this critical coalition have come under politically motivated attacks. Targets have included, among others, the FDA, the CDC and Dr. Fauci; in Fauci’s case this has occurred to the point where he now requires a security detail. Not only are these attacks completely unjustified, they risk intimidating and demoralizing the very people we all are relying on to help end the COVID-19 nightmare. As such, they are irresponsible and a pose danger to us all.

Fauci is a giant of epidemiology, one of the world’s most respected scientists in infectious diseases, and an American hero who has served multiple administrations — both Republican and Democratic — for decades. He has recommended measures that have saved likely scores of thousands of lives in our country. Had his counsel been taken more widely, even more lives could have been saved. Unfortunately, the United States today has experienced the largest number of deaths from COVID-19 of any country in the world.

When a public servant of Fauci’s caliber is attacked, it puts our collective efforts, and the safety of the American public, at risk. Senator Lamar Alexander (Republican, Tennessee) posted on Twitter: “Dr. Fauci is one of our country’s most distinguished public servants” and “If more Americans paid attention to his advice, we’d have fewer cases of COVID-19, & it would be safer to go back to school & back to work & out to eat.”

This is the sort of responsible, truthful support that is needed from our public officials. Many of our colleagues and friends are working as part of Operation Warp Speed; we stand united with them, with the many good people at FDA, CDC and NIH, and with Dr. Fauci in upholding the high scientific, medical and ethical principles that will allow us to defeat COVID-19.

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  • 17 December 2020

    A Correction to this paper has been published:

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Correspondence to Jeremy Levin.

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Competing interests

Ron Cohen is president and CEO, Acorda Therapeutics; Cedric Francois is president and CEO, Apellis Pharmaceuticals; John Crowley is chairman and CEO, Amicus Therapeutics; Paul Hastings is president and CEO, Nkarta Therapeutics; Rachel King is CEO, GlycoMimetics; Ted W. Love is president and CEO, Global Blood Therapeutics; John Maraganore is CEO, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals; Michelle McMurry-Heath is president and CEO, Biotechnology Innovation Organization; Jeremy Levin is chairman and CEO, Ovid Therapeutics, and chairman, Biotechnology Innovation Organization. This Correspondence represents solely the individual and personal views of the authors and signatories, and not those of their respective companies.

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Cohen, R., Francois, C., Crowley, J. et al. Supporting US public health experts. Nat Biotechnol 38, 1381–1384 (2020).

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