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Trump invites top biotech execs, researchers to White House in May

April 25, 2017

Pharma and biotech companies, as well as healthcare researchers, are slated to meet with top advisers to President Donald Trump next month to discuss federal funding issues as it relates to the industry, according to a Bloomberg report.

Industry leaders, which could include Jeffrey Leiden, chief executive officer of Boston-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX), will meet with administrative officials including Vice President Mike Pence, Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, senior adviser to the president. Other participants include Tom Price, the newly confirmed secretary for Health and Human Services and Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health.

The meeting is described as a chance for “private sector and thought leaders to describe their institution and its connection to federal funding,” Bloomberg reported, citing a White House memo. Set for May 8, the biotech summit comes on the heels of Trump’s proposal to slash more than $1 billion from the NIH’s budget this year and $5.8 billion next year. The cuts, if passed, will primarily impact research grants. Approximately 80 percent of the NIH funding is sent to more than 300,000 researchers at institutions in the United States and across the globe. Because grants span multiple years, the NIH cuts could prove disruptive to medical research being conducted.

The meeting will most certainly continue to take shape over the next two weeks as the agenda undergoes some changes. During the biotech summit Leiden is scheduled to talk about “the important role of U.S. companies in biotechnology investment and development and innovation,” according to Bloomberg.

Stanford University’s president Marc Tessier-Lavigne will discuss the “golden age of biomedicine” and innovations occurring in the field. His university has 321 NIH grants worth $138 million, Bloomberg said.

Pricing of drugs will also likely be brought up. Earlier this year, Trump met with pharma executives and criticized the price of drugs. Trump called drug prices astronomical and said prices have to come down. Trump said U.S. drug companies have produced “extraordinary results” for the country, but said the price of many of the drugs are detrimental to the people. The meeting was held following Trump’s pre-inauguration comments that the pharmaceutical industry was “getting away with murder” when it comes to the prices the companies charge for medication. Leiden’s Vertex is among the companies that has been criticized over the prices it charges for its cystic fibrosis drugs. Juliana Keeping, the mother of a small boy with cystic fibrosis, said the $259,000 price of Vertex’s Orkambi keeps the drug out of reach of many people who do not have the resources to pay for the treatment.

In addition to Leiden, Regeneron (REGN) CEO Len Schleifer is also expected to attend, as is Craig Thompson, president of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Schleifer has also been a critic of increasing drug prices.

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