Celgene, Regeneron and Vertex execs, NIH chief head to White House as threat of Trump funding cuts looms

Ivanka Trump speaking
Meeting attendee Ivanka Trump. (Courtesy of Michael Vadon / CC BY 2.0)

Biotech executives and the head of the NIH are set to meet with top White House officials today. The meeting is the first time executives from leading biopharma companies have convened at the White House since President Donald Trump unveiled plans to slash biomedical research funding.

Bloomberg reported news of the May 8 meeting last month after getting hold of an agenda stating that more than 10 leading White House officials including Vice President Mike Pence and two of Trump’s relatives—daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner—would meet with biotech execs and other people involved in biomedical research. The Bloomberg report does not list President Trump among the White House officials due to be at the meeting.

On the research side, executives from Celgene, Regeneron and Vertex are among those invited to attend the meeting. Vertex CEO Jeff Leiden, M.D., Ph.D., is due to discuss “the important role of U.S. companies in biotechnology investment and development and innovation.” Regeneron CEO Leonard Schleifer, M.D., Ph.D., who has called industry price hikes “ridiculous” and a way to “cover up the gaps in innovation,” is also listed as a participant.

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Leiden and Schleifer are joined on the list of participants by people who will be more directly hit if Trump pushes ahead with plans to slash the NIH’s budget and reorganize the institutes. Notably, NIH Director Francis Collins is expected to attend the meeting, as is Stanford University president and former Genentech CSO Marc Tessier-Lavigne. In Collins and Tessier-Lavigne, the meeting has the head of the organization that hands out biomedical research funding and the president of one of the major recipients of these monies.

Collins and Tessier-Lavigne will have a chance to make the case for the value of such funding. The agenda lists Collins as talking about the “value proposition for federal funding of research” as it relates to healthcare budgets and jobs, two of the topics high on Trump’s list of priorities. Tessier-Lavigne is set to discuss the “golden age of biomedicine.”

The meeting comes three months after Trump began his presidency with a meeting with executives from some of the biggest biopharma companies in the U.S. Interest in that gathering centered on Trump’s position on drug pricing. But Trump reportedly skirted the topic of government price intervention, and little of import emerged publicly.

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