Biden appoints geneticist Eric Lander as science adviser

President-elect Joe Biden has chosen a research policy maven—and familiar face—to be both his science adviser and head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

Eric Lander’s appointment is seen as a sign that the Biden administration will embrace scientific research.MATTHEW J. LEE/BROAD INSTITUTE

Eric Lander, 63, is president and founding director of the Broad Institute, which is jointly run by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A mathematician turned molecular biologist, Lander was also co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) for 8 years under former President Barack Obama, where he worked closely with Obama’s science adviser, John Holdren, and interacted with Biden.

“Eric is a fabulous choice, and he will make a terrific science adviser,” predicts Holdren, who calls Lander “a science polymath” for his breadth of knowledge across many disciplines. That’s also true for policy, Holdren says. “Eric’s fingerprints were on every one of PCAST’s 39 reports” issued under Obama, Holdren adds, noting that six of them covered previous pandemics and public health crises.

Lander will be the first biologist to hold both jobs, and he’ll be the first to hold Cabinet-level status. Holdren expects Lander to take full advantage of that forum.

“He’s incredibly good at explaining complex scientific issues,” Holdren says about Lander’s role in presenting PCAST reports to the president. Biden participated in several of those briefings, Holdren noted, calling the former vice president “a real science wonk.”

Lander has long had a high scientific profile. He co-led the public Human Genome Project to the completion of a first draft in 2001. In 2003 he founded and now leads the Broad Institute, a genome-sequencing powerhouse. Lander is known for his enthusiasm for big science projects and his healthy ego. A few years ago he was criticized for downplaying the role of some scientists in developing CRISPR, the gene-editing tool that has transformed biology in recent years.

Story credit: SCIENCE

Categories: Diseases, Politics

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