On May 4, 2017, the Immigrant Learning Center named Johannes Fruehauf, MD, PhD, Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year in Life Sciences. Johannes is founder of BioLabs and LabCentral in Cambridge and co-founder and general partner at BioInnovation Capital. BioLabs builds and operates premium co-working laboratory facilities around the country for science-based startups. His full remarks are below. A video interview is also available.
Immigrant Learning Center, Inc.
Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards 2017
Johannes Fruehauf, MD, PhD
Cofounder, President, Executive Director of LabCentral & BioLabs
Royale Sonesta Hotel, Cambridge, Massachusetts
May 4, 2017
Thank you. Secretary Ash, the ILC and committee, my wife Eri —LabCentral and BioLabs colleagues — my friends and fellow nominees… this is an enormous honor for me. Winning such a prestigious award would be exciting and humbling at any time. But I must confess: this one, this year — it’s particularly sweet!
You see I’m German. I have that heritage in common with our president.
I’m also student of history and science. And I think it’s critical to learn all you can from both.
I feel a special obligation — as a German — as a proud immigrant father of three American-born children, and as a successful American entrepreneur — to speak out and fight to protect America’s reputation and competitive position in the world. Make no mistake. Both are at serious risk.
Words and the perception they create matter and our country is already starting to lose out. Forty percent of colleges and nearly half of graduate programs reported a decline in applications from international students due to a possible “Trump effect.” On a local level, we also see this at the German International School Boston.
That will have an immediate impact on those schools and their local economies — But that’s not what I’m most worried about. I’m afraid it’s a leading indicator of what is to come.
America has always been THE center of innovation, discovery... of entrepreneurship … it’s where you go/we go to turn our germ of an idea into a viable, commercial product that helps people. That creates jobs. That grows the economy. That … makes… America … great?
It is not that long ago when Republicans and democrats both talked about building our economic competitiveness by stapling the green card on STEM graduates’ diplomas. That was before the immigration narrative got hijacked by the “stealing our jobs” narrative that couldn’t be more wrong.
Just look at LabCentral. We’re in Kendall Square:
We opened our doors in the fall of 2013. Since then we’ve served: more than 60 high-flying life-sciences start-ups; and 73 percent of them were founded or co-founded by immigrants. Between 2014 and 2016, our resident companies have filed 261 patents. They worked hard and raised more than one billion dollars to advance their research and development programs .
In 2016 alone, they raised over 200 million dollars in venture capital funding. If that were a region of the country — it would be third, after California.
So whose jobs are they stealing? The innovation and ingeniuity of those entrepreneurs created over 700 new direct jobs and that typically translates into 5-6 times more indirect jobs. It is important to check and change the narrative – and that’s what we are doing here tonight.
Because the risk is this: If the anti-immigration rhetoric goes unchecked, unfiltered, and increasingly accepted ….. this is heard by qualified applicants around the globe …will America lose its competitive edge along with our moral high ground and special standing?
We must not let that happen!
As immigrants, entrepreneurs, as successful business people… we have a special obligation to speak out against these short sighted and often bigoted arguments when we see and hear them.
We must be active and engaged.
It’s good for business, it’s good for our communities. It’s good for our country. It’s the moral and right thing to do. And it’s the essence of the American dream and spirit.
It’s the American way.