Biotech leaders call for free press

Biotech leaders call for free press

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To the Editor: We, the undersigned, are biotechnology executives, entrepreneurs, academic leaders and investors. We are gravely concerned about trends in the United States that are undermining our news media, such that more than 300 news publications across the country recently found it necessary to run coordinated editorials in defense of the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press.

Why do we, in particular, feel compelled to speak out? We dedicate our lives to discovering and developing new medicines. In recent years, we have witnessed astonishing advances in medicine, including treating diseases at the level of genes and cells. These modern miracles rely, more than anything else, on the free and public exchange of ideas. This encompasses the ability to collaborate, debate, and test one another’s ideas and findings, and to publish data regardless of political, religious or other external pressures or considerations. This is foundational to the scientific method, without which we all might still be living in caves and have an average life expectancy of 30.

The Framers of the US Constitution understood this well; in 1774, the First Continental Congress wrote, in the Appeal to the Inhabitants of Quebec:

The last right we shall mention regards the freedom of the press. The importance of this consists, besides the advancement of truth, science, morality, and arts in general, in … its ready communication of thoughts between subjects, and its consequential promotion of union among them, whereby oppressive officers are shamed or intimidated into more honorable and just modes of conducting affairs.

We believe it is critical to recognize that a free press is not equivalent to a perfect press. Reporters, just like scientists and every other variety of human being, at times make mistakes, can be biased, or may be just plain wrong. We see no compelling evidence to indicate that this is more prevalent now than it was 250 years ago at the time of our country’s founding, or any time thereafter.

The great virtue in having a free press is that everyone’s mistakes, including those of politicians, scientists and the press itself, have the opportunity to be exposed and ultimately corrected. Thomas Jefferson, who, like many presidents, chafed under the scrutiny of the press while he was in office, nevertheless wrote: “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” To consider our press “the enemy of the people” is antithetical to this key founding principle of our nation.

Technology now provides near instantaneous access to almost every vehicle for news; perversely, this has created more silos of news consumption, as we citizens receive news from outlets that are tailored to our particular tastes and prejudices, and we are less and less frequently exposed to alternative perspectives.

The progress of science and medicine requires that their practitioners not only be exposed to, but actively seek out, such perspectives. This is just as true for the progress of our country and our citizens at large. For America to remain the world's foremost beacon of liberty and human progress, as well as the world’s leader in science and medicine, we must be resolute in upholding the rights guaranteed us by the First Amendment.


This letter represents solely the individual and personal views of the authors and signatories, and not those of their employers, companies, universities or any other organization or agency.


John Maraganore is CEO and board member of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, and on the board of Agios Pharmaceuticals and the Biotechnology Innovation Organization. Steve Holtzman is president, CEO and board member of Decibel Therapeutics, and on the board of Molecular Partners. Ron Cohen is president and CEO of Acorda Therapeutics and a board member of VBL Therapeutics. Jeremy Levin is an officer at Ovid Therapeutics and on the board of Lundbeck A/S, Biocon Limited and ZappRX.

John M Maraganore1, Steven Holtzman2, Ron Cohen& Jeremy M Levin4

Signatories to the statement

Michael Aberman5, Chris Adams6, Julian Adams7, Jeffrey Albers8, Bonnie Anderson9, Mara G Aspinall10, James E Audia11, Martin Babler12, David Baltimore13, Stephane Bancel14, Peter Barrett15, Zoe Barry16, David Bartel17, Jean-Jacques Bienaime18, Burkhard Blank19, Robert I Blum20, Daniel M Bradbury21, Eugene Braunwald22, John P Butler23, Bruce Carter24, Gustav Christensen25, Isaac Ciechanover26, Chip Clark27, John K Clarke28, Michael D Clayman29, Jeffrey L Cleland30, David Clem31, N Anthony Coles32, Charles L Cooney33, Robert K Coughlin34, Zoltan Csimma35, Sally J Curley36, Bassil Dahiyat37, Daniel A de Boer38, Elisabet de los Pinos39, Ronald A DePinho40, Douglas Doerfler41, Daniel Dornbusch42, Richard H Douglas43, Deborah Dunsire44, Neil Exter45, Nima Farzan46, Jean-François Formela47, Robert Forrester48, Maureen N Franco49, Cedric Francois50, Heather Franklin51, Scott Garland52, Simba Gill53, David V Goeddel54, Maxine Gowen55, Kurt Graves56, Mary Ann Gray57, Barry Greene58, David-Alexandre C Gros59, Faheem Hasnain60, Michael Hammerschmidt61, Elma S Hawkins62, Russell Herndon63, Paul Hastings64, Andrew Hindman65, Annalisa Jenkins66, Cigall Kadoch67, Emil D Kakkis68, Johanne Kaplan69, Laurie Keating70, Rachel King71, Vanessa King72, Scott Koenig73, Peter Kolchinsky74, Daphne Koller75, Marc Kozin76, Paul Laikind77, Robert Langer78, Donna L LaVoie79, John J Lee80, Jonathan Leff81, Alan Levy82, Judy Lieberman83, Christine Lindenboom84, David R Liu85, Uri Lopatin86, Ted W Love87, David N Low Jr88, Nagesh K Mahanthappa89, Tony Martignetti90, W Eddie Martucci91, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw92, Tracey L McCain93, Corey M McCann94, David J McLachlan95, David Meeker96, Ravi Mehrotra97, Steven J Mento98, Rachel Meyers99, Gregory Miller100, Ken Mills101, Kenneth I Moch102, Michael M Morrissey103, Robert Mulroy104, Imran Nasrullah105, William J Newell106, John F Neylan107, Bernat Olle108, Eric T Olson109, Douglas E Onsi110, John E Osborn111, Julia C Owens112, Stelios Papadopoulos113, Steve Paul114, Brian J G Pereira115, Doris Peterkin116, Cary Pfeffer117, Mark Pruzanski118, Gerald E Quirk119, Michael Raab120, Paula Ragan121, Amit Rakhit122, Bill Rastetter123, Ron Renaud124, Jason P Rhodes125, Scott M Rocklage126, Michael Rosenblatt127, William J Rutter128, Camille Samuels129, James Sapirstein130, Amar Sawhney131, David Scadden132, George Scangos133, John A Scarlett134, Stuart L Schreiber135, Paul J Sekhri136, Eric Shaff137, Bennett Shapiro138, Thomas Shenk139, Nancy Simonian140, William Slattery141, Erika R Smith142, Bruce Steel143, Harald F Stock144, Clifford J Stocks145, Michael Su146, Tim Surgenor147, Jean-Christophe Tellier148, Charles Theuer149, Martin Tolar150, Eric Topol151, Beth Trehu152, Akshay K Vaishnaw153, Christi van Heek154, Michael J Vasconcelles155, George P Vlasuk156, Michel Vounatsos157, Christopher T Walsh158, Jane Wasman159, Andrew Weisenfeld160, Yaron Werber161, Christoph Westphal162, Wendell Wierenga163, Terry Winters164, Eugene Williams165, Chuck Wilson166, Peter Wirth167, Kleanthis Xanthopoulos168 & Sanford (Sandy) Zweifach169

1Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 2Decibel Therapeutics, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 3Acorda Therapeutics, Ardsley, New York, US. 4New Milford, Connecticut, USA. 5Quentis Therapeutics, Inc., New York, New York, USA. 6Cydan II, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 7Gamida Cell, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 8Blueprint Medicines, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 9Veracyte, Inc., South San Francisco, California, USA. 10Health Catalysts Group, Tucson, Arizona, USA. 11Constellation Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 12Principa Biopharma, South San Francisco, California, USA. 13Caltech, Pasadena, California, USA. 14Moderna, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.  15Atlas Venture, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 16ZappRx, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 17MIT/Whitehead Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 18BioMarin Pharmaceutical, Novato, California, USA. 19Acorda Therapeutics, Inc., Ardsley, New York, USA. 20Cytokinetics, Inc., South San Francisco, California, USA. 21Equillium, Inc., La Jolla, California, USA. 22Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 23Akebia Therapeutics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 24Novo Nordisk (retired), Seattle, Washington, USA. 25Morphic Therapeutic, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA. 26Atara Biotherapeutics, South San Francisco, California, USA. 27Genocea Biosciences, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 28Cardinal Partners, Princeton, New Jersey, USA. 29Flexion Therapeutics, Burlington, Massachusetts, USA. 30Graybug Vision, Redwood City, California, USA. 31Lyme Properties 2, LLC, West Lebanon, New Hampshire, USA. 32Yumanity Therapeutics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 33Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 34MassBio, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 35Csimma LLC, Lincoln, Massachusetts, USA. 36IRC, CGIR, LLC, Savannah, Georgia, USA. 37Xencor, Monrovia California, USA. 38ProQR Therapeutics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 39Aura Biosciences Inc., Cambridge Massachusetts, USA. 40Department of Cancer Biology, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA. 41MaxCyte Inc., Gaithersburg Maryland, USA. 42Dornbusch & Company, Oakland, California, USA. 43Aldeyra Therapeutics, Lexington, Massachusetts, USA. 44Lundbeck Pharmaceuticals, København, Denmark. 45Third Rock Ventures, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 46PaxVax, Redwood City, California, USA. 47Atlas Venture, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 48Verastem, Inc., Needham, Massachusetts, USA. 49Cambridge BioMarketing, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.  50Apellis Pharmaceuticals, Crestwood, Kentucky, USA. 51Blaze Bioscience Inc., Seattle, Washington, USA. 52Relypsa, a Vifor Pharma Group Company, Redwood City, California, USA.  53Evelo Biosciences, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 54The Column Group, San Francisco, California, USA. 55Trevena Inc., Wayne, Pennsylvania, USA. 56Intarcia Therapeutics, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 57Gray Strategic Advisors, LLC, New York, New York, USA. 58Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 59Imbria Pharmaceuticals, Rancho Santa Fe, California, USA. 60Gossamer Bio, San Diego California, USA. 61Science History Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. 62Redpin Therapeutics, New York, New York, USA. 63Hydra Biosciences, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 64Nkarta Therapeutics, South San Francisco, California, USA. 65Acorda Therapeutics, Ardsley, New York, USA. 66Cell Medica, London, UK. 67Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Medical School/MIT/Foghorn Therapeutics, Inc., Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 68Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical Inc., Novato, California, USA. 69ProMIS Neurosciences, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.  70Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 71GlycoMimetics, Rockville, Maryland, USA. 72Virion Biotherapeutics LLC, London, UK. 73MacroGenics Inc., Rockville, Maryland, USA. 74RA Capital Management, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 75Insitro, South San Francisco, California, USA. 76Naples, Florida, USA. 77ViaCyte, San Diego, California, USA. 78MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 79LaVoieHealthScience, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 80Decibel Therapeutics, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 81Deerfield Management, New York, New York, USA. 82Tasso, Inc., Bellevue, Washington, USA. 83Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 84Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 85Broad Institute/Howard Hughes Medical Institute/Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 86Assembly Biosciences, San Francisco, California, USA. 87Global Blood Therapeutics, South San Francisco, California, USA. 88MTS Health Partners, New York, New York, USA. 89Scholar Rock, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 90Inspired Purpose Coaching LLC, Canton, Massachusetts, USA. 91Akili Interactive Labs, Inc., Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 92Biocon Pharma Inc., Iselin, New Jersey, USA.  93Blueprint Medicines Corporation, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 94Pear Therapeutics, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 95Skyworks Solutions, Inc., Woburn, Massachusetts, USA. 96KSQ Therapeutics, Cambridge Massachusetts, USA.  97MTS Health Partners, New York, New York, USA. 98Conatus Pharmaceuticals Inc., San Diego, California, USA. 99Third Rock Ventures, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 100Visterra Inc., Waltham, Massachusetts, USA. 101Regenxbio Inc., Rockville, Maryland, USA. 102Cognition Therapeutics, Inc., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. 103Exelixis, Inc., Alameda, California, USA.   104PTX Partner Therapeutics, Lexington, Massachusetts, USA. 105Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 106Sutro Biopharma, Inc., South San Francisco, California, USA. 107Keryx Biopharmaceuticals, Inc., Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 108Vedanta Biosciences, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 109Marblehead, Massachusetts, USA. 110HealthCare Ventures, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 111BioVentures/Egalet Corporation, Wayne, Pennsylvania, USA. 112Millendo Therapeutics, Inc., Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. 113Biogen Inc., Cambridge Massachusetts, USA.  114Karuna Pharmaceuticals, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 115Visterra, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 116OncoPep, Inc., North Andover Massachusetts, USA. 117Third Rock Ventures, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 118Intercept, New York, New York, USA. 119Syros Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.  120Ardelyx, Inc., Fremont, California, USA. 121X4 Pharmaceuticals Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 122Ovid Therapeutics, New York, New York, USA. 123Grail/Neurocrine Biosciences/Fate Therapeutics/Daré Bioscience/Regulus Therapeutics, Rancho Santa Fe, California, USA. 124Translate Bio, Lexington, Massachusetts, USA. 125Atlas Venture, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 1265AM Ventures, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 127Flagship Pioneering, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 128Synergenics, LLC., San Francisco, California, USA. 129Venrock, Palo Alto, California, USA. 130Contravir Pharmaceuticals, Edison, New Jersey, USA. 131Ocular Therapeutix, Bedford, Massachusetts, USA. 132Harvard University/Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 133Vir Biotechnology, Inc., San Francisco, California, USA. 134Geron Corporation, Menlo Park, California, USA. 135Broad Institute/Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 136Lycera Corp., New York, New York, USA. 137Seres Therapeutics, Cambridge Massachusetts, USA. 138Puretech Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 139Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, USA. 140Syros Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge Massachusetts, USA. 141Deerfield Management, New York, New York, USA. 142ReNetX Bio, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.  143Equillium, Inc., La Jolla California, USA. 144CognifiSense, Inc., Park City, Utah, USA. 145OncoResponse, Inc., Seattle, Washington, USA.  146Decibel Therapeutics Incorporated, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 147Red Sky Partners, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 148UCB S.A., Brussels, Belgium. 149Tracon Pharmaceuticals Inc., San Diego, California, USA. 150Alzheon, Framingham, Massachusetts, USA.  151Scripps Research Translational Institute/Molecular Medicine, La Jolla, California, USA. 152Jounce Therapeutics, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.  153Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.  154Bio Point Group, Punta Gorda, Florida, USA. 155Unum Therapeutics Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 156Navitor Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 157Biogen, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 158ChEM-H Institute/Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA.  159Acorda Therapeutics, Inc., Ardsley, New York, USA. 160MTS Health Partners LP, New York, New York, USA. 161Ovid Therapeutics, New York, New York, USA. 162TScan Therapeutics, Boston Massachusetts, USA. 163Crinetics Pharmaceuticals, San Diego, California, USA. 164Scottsdale, Arizona, USA. 165ProMIS Neurosciences, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 166Unum Therapeutics Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 167Syros Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.  168Irras, San Diego, California, USA. 169Nuvelution Pharma, Inc., South San Francisco, California, USA.

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Go to the profile of Shuguang Zhang
almost 6 years ago

I fully agree with the letter and strongly support freedom of press!  

Shuguang Zhang, MIT, Cambridge MA

Go to the profile of Marc Rioult
almost 6 years ago

I join the authors of this letter in complete support of a free and independent press. 

M. Rioult, Managing Director, 3-D Matrix Inc., Needham, MA

Go to the profile of Burghardt Wittig
almost 6 years ago

I fully agree with the contents and context of the letter and editorial and emphasise my strong support for the freedom of press!

Go to the profile of Andrew Marshall
almost 6 years ago

Bob Gallo has asked to be added as a personal signatory of the letter:

Bob Gallo, Director, Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore. 

Go to the profile of Derek Lowe
almost 6 years ago

I fully endorse the views in this letter and am glad to add my name to it.

Derek Lowe

Cambridge, MA

I join the authors and the editors of Nature Biotechnology in support of a free and unfettered press.  

Christopher Thomas Scott, PhD, Dalton Tomlin Chair for Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas. 

Go to the profile of Andrew Marshall
almost 6 years ago

Rudy Jaenisch has asked for his name to be added as a personal signatory of the letter:

Rudolf Jaenisch, Professor of Biology, Whitehead Institute and Dept. of Biology, MIT, Boston

Go to the profile of Tomislav Dorbic
almost 6 years ago

I fully agree with the contents and context of the letter and editorial and emphasise my strong support for the freedom of press!

Go to the profile of Andrew Marshall
almost 6 years ago

Simmie Foster and Andreas Mershin have asked to be added as personal signatories of the letter:

 Simmie L Foster , Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital  and Harvard, Cambridge, MA

Andreas Mershin,  MIT, Cambridge, MA

Go to the profile of Ishtiyaque Ahmad
over 5 years ago

I fully support the free press not only n US but globally. Journalists should have freedom to perform honest duty without fear, favor, threat and intimidation by government, mobs and even opinionated public.