Biden appoints geneticist Eric Lander as top science advisor

Eric Lander


U.President-elect Joe Biden appointed geneticist Eric Lander, president and founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, to be his science advisor and head of the White House science and technology policy bureau. Time is raised to cabinet level. If this is confirmed by Congress, Lander will also be the first biologist to hold one of these positions.

“Eric Lander is a true Renaissance scientist with a deep understanding of the many fields of science and their interrelations,” said Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences The New York Times. “At a time when the nation and the world are facing complex challenges that require the full power of the natural, life, environmental, social, biomedical, and engineering sciences, Eric is an inspired choice of a scientist of international standing for ensuring that science guides sound policy. “

Lander has long had a high scientific profile: he was co-leader of the Human Genome Project, the international effort to sequence the human genome that culminated in a much-cited project nature Article that Lander was the lead author of. Originally trained as a mathematician, Lander won a MacArthur Foundation Genius Award in 1987 at the age of 30. In 2003 he founded the Broad Institute, a leading biomedical and genomic research center.

Lander’s rise to Biden’s cabinet is a win-win for the scientific community, which has long called for the OSTP director to serve as vice-presidents and the heads of 15 executive departments. “It seems like a very positive move to take science to its rightful place in administration,” said Harold Varmus, geneticist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, who previously headed the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute nature. “I think it’s a very important moment in the history of science in government.”

“It shows the importance of who will be in the room when making decisions,” says Roger Pielke Jr., a science policy expert at the University of Colorado Boulder nature.

In a letter to Lander, Biden outlined five key areas OSTP should focus on, including how lessons from the pandemic can be drawn to inform public health about the future, and how science and technology can help combat climate change.

Lander also served as chairman of the President’s Advisory Council on Science and Technology (PCAST) to former President Barack Obama. Some PCAST ​​reports released during Lander’s tenure covered issues such as pandemics, vaccinations, energy and climate change. California Institute of Technology bioengineer and Nobel Prize winner Frances Arnold and MIT geophysicist Maria Zuber will lead PCAST ​​under Biden.

President Donald Trump left PCAST ​​idle for 33 months, and when he convened the panel again in 2019, only one of its appointees was working in the academic field, with private industry representatives making up the remainder of the council.

Lander plans to take academic leave from Broad to serve in the White House. Cancer geneticist Todd Golub, the institute’s current chief scientist, plans to replace Lander as director of Broad.

In 2016, Lander was criticized for writing a story on CRISPR in cell This emphasized the role of his broad colleague Feng Zhang and downplayed the roles of Jennifer Doudna from the University of California at Berkeley and Emmanuelle Charpentier from the Max Planck Department for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin. Doudna and Charpentier received the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their pioneering work on CRISPR.

See “‘Heroes of CRISPR’ controversial”

In a press release on Friday, Biden also announced that Alondra Nelson, president of the Social Science Research Council, would serve as OSTP’s deputy director. Kei Koizumi, who also served in Obama’s OSTP, will serve as the bureau’s chief of staff. and Francis Collins, longtime director of the National Institutes of Health, will continue to lead the agency.

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