Top White House Officials to Meet With Biotech Executives and Researchers

  • VP Pence, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner listed on agenda
  • Summit follows massive proposed cuts to NIH research budget

Trump vs. Big Pharma: Can He Bring Drug Prices Down?

Almost a dozen top administration officials, including the vice president and two Trump family members, are scheduled to meet next month with drug companies and government scientific researchers at the White House, according to an agenda obtained by Bloomberg.

Vice President Mike Pence, President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner will attend the May 8 summit, along with the head of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, executives from Celgene Corp. and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., and leaders of top research universities and hospitals.

The meeting is described in the memo as a chance for “private sector and thought leaders to describe their institution and its connection to federal funding.” The Trump administration has proposed cutting $1.23 billion from the NIH’s budget this fiscal year, and $5.8 billion next year, an about 18 percent reduction. Most of the proposed 2017 cuts would have come from research grants.

Trump has also said the drug industry is “getting away with murder” with the prices it charges. A White House aide confirmed that a meeting is scheduled with drug and research officials on May 8.

U.S. Research Funds

The NIH is one of the country’s biggest research funders, and its grants go to some of the same organizations scheduled to attend the White House session. Stanford University, whose president Marc Tessier-Lavigne is listed on the meeting agenda, currently has 321 NIH grants worth $138 million, according to an agency database. The NIH, founded in 1887, supports some 300,000 scientists at universities and organizations across the U.S. and the world.

Other listed administration participants include Tom Price, Secretary for Health and Human Services; Francis Collins, director of the NIH; Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to Trump; and David Shulkin, Veteran Affairs secretary. Pharma executives include Vertex Pharmaceuticals CEO Jeff Leiden, who will discuss “the important role of U.S. companies in biotechnology investment and development and innovation,” and Regeneron CEO Len Schleifer, who is among the more outspoken pharma executives over pricing.

Stanford’s Tessier-Lavigne is scheduled to talk about the “golden age of biomedicine” and outline “some of the amazing innovations” occurring in the field. Collins is scheduled to speak for 10 minutes on the “value proposition for federal funding of research” that leads to health-care savings, job creation and return on investment.

Vertex spokesman David Whitrap declined to comment. Representatives for Stanford, Celgene and Regeneron didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Other participants scheduled include Rockefeller University President Rick Lifton and Cori Bargmann, a neuroscientist who teaches and leads a prominent lab at Rockefeller. She was recently named president of Chan Zuckerberg Science, a program started by Facebook Inc. founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.

The agenda also includes Pablo Legorreta, CEO of Royalty Pharma in New York; Helen Hobbs, a renowned researcher in human genetics and investigator at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center; Craig Thompson, president of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York; and Bill Ford, CEO of General Atlantic LLC, a private equity firm.

— With assistance by Jennifer Jacobs, and Anna Edney

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