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Nurturing the Biotech Ecosystem

Our CEO Dr. Jeffrey Leiden and Dr. David Torchiana, CEO of Partners HealthCare, recently authored an op-ed about the importance of a vibrant biomedical ecosystem.

Read the op-ed     More on WBUR

May 5, 2017

By Dr. Jeffrey Leiden, M.D., PH.D, Chairman, President, and CEO

I have spent my entire career in one aspect or another of the biomedical innovation ecosystem, and it is a topic I am particularly passionate about.

Today, America leads the world in biomedicine as measured by the number of new breakthrough drugs and devices produced, the total amount of capital invested, the patents filed and economic growth and job creation. This is no accident; it’s because the United States has developed a unique innovation ecosystem, unlike those present anywhere else in the world.

This ecosystem begins with academic research funded by the NIH, progresses through biotech start-ups funded by venture capital and moves onto established biotechs and pharma companies funded by the public markets. Without the public/private collaborations that are central to this ecosystem, we would not have revolutionized the treatment of diseases like cancer, heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis, which were all once believed to be insurmountable.

Today, we face an unprecedented opportunity, but also an unprecedented challenge. The American biomedical ecosystem is poised to deliver new preventative therapies and cures for serious diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and diabetes. If we continue to nurture biomedical innovation, I have no doubt that we will continue to revolutionize the health of patients around the world, bend the cost curve of healthcare and create large numbers of new jobs and tremendous economic growth. On the other hand, if we damage even one part of the system, we run the risk of permanently stifling innovation and stalling the ecosystem just when it’s reaching its peak potential. 

Over the past three decades, Vertex has grown up in the capital of U.S. biomedical innovation. Massachusetts has fostered an innovation ecosystem that has made us the clear leader in this space. As a company, we’ve introduced three new medicines for serious diseases – two in cystic fibrosis - in the last six years alone. This innovation didn’t happen overnight. For nearly 20 years, Vertex invested billions of dollars and thousands of man-years into the intensive process of discovering and developing new transformative medicines for serious disease.

This decades-long journey is a perfect example of why the United States needs to steadfastly foster and promote innovation within the biotech ecosystem. This requires a continued long-term commitment to promoting research across the public and private sectors, including continuing to provide the incentives that encourage innovation and enable companies like ours and their investors to make the investments, take the risks, and pursue the scientific hypotheses that ultimately lead to the development of life-changing treatments.

As the CEO of Vertex, I am committed not only to ensuring that this company continues its work to pioneer medical breakthroughs, but also to protecting and nurturing the biotech ecosystem that makes them possible – both in Massachusetts and nationally. From policymakers to doctors and patients to leaders of industry, we must all share the same passion and commitment to improve the lives of those around us.


by Dr. Jeffrey Leiden, M.D., PH.D
Chairman, President, and CEO