The Biden Science Team—A moment for optimism
President Biden is sending encouraging signs that science will play a prominent role in his administration. This is welcome news for the global health community as well as for the United States. Biden’s team of science advisors represents a deep reservoir of expertise, and his decision to elevate the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to a cabinet-level post helps ensure that science will be an integral part of major policy decisions.
When he announced his science team on January 16, then President-elect Biden asked, “How can we assure long-term health and trust in science and technology in our country?” Having confidence in the credentials and commitment of his advisors is an important step.
Eric Lander, an internationally respected geneticist who most recently led the Broad Institute of MIT/Harvard, will serve as Presidential Science Advisor and Director of the OSTP. The new Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be Rochelle Walensky, an HIV physician and researcher who was Chief of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Former FDA Commissioner David Kessler, a pediatrician and lawyer, will lead Operation Warp Speed, the effort to fund, develop, and distribute COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. Anthony Fauci, longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will become President Biden’s Chief Medical Advisor. In this new role, Dr Fauci has already announced that the United States will remain a member of the World Health Organization. Francis Collins, well known to the international community for leading the Human Genome Project and for his respected voice in science and medicine, will stay on as Director of the NIH and continue to play a leading role.
Also encouraging is the Biden administration’s emphasis on equity and health. Marcella Nunez-Smith, Associate Dean for Health Equity Research at Yale Medical School, will chair a new taskforce on health equity. Deputy Director of OSTP Alondra Nelson, a sociologist by training, underscored the administration’s commitment: “Never before in living memory have the connections between our scientific world and our social world been quite so stark as they are today.” Her words are sobering, given the toll COVID-19 has taken on marginalized communities throughout the world, but at the same time a rousing call to action.
We are living through a critical time—a time when global collaboration in science and public health has never been more important or more recognized. The new Biden team brings much needed optimism that science-based decision making will drive policies and actions to combat the most pressing issues of our time, including pandemic preparedness and response, climate change, health equity, global health security, and of course a safe and healthy future for all.
We are and always will be one world.
Barbara J. Stoll