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Biden appoints geneticist Eric Lander as scientific adviser

25 January 2021
Appeared in BioNews 1080

US President Joe Biden has selected geneticist Professor Eric Lander as his presidential scientific adviser.

Should the appointment be confirmed by the Senate, Professor Lander will sit in Biden's cabinet as the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the first presidential scientific adviser to do so. This would also be the first time a biologist has ever held the position.

As he announced his team, Biden said: 'science will always be at the forefront of my administration.' 

Originally a mathematician, Professor Lander has become a decorated molecular biologist and is the founder and director of the Broad Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is known for co-leading the Human Genome Project, a collaborative effort to sequence the human genome, resulting in a Nature publication of which Professor Lander was the lead author. Previously, he was an adviser to former President Barack Obama, in his tenure as co-chair of the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST).

President Biden described Professor Lander as 'one of the most brilliant persons I know' and hopes his science team would lead the way in every aspect, from climate change to cancer research. The President wrote a letter to Professor Lander looking to him to use lessons from the coronavirus pandemic to influence public health policy, as well as address climate change issues.

Scientists around the world have reacted positively to Professor Lander's appointment, including his co-chair of PCAST, Professor Harold Varmus, who said 'I think it marks a very important moment in the history of science in the government.' 

Professor Lander's supporters hope his appointment will add scientific expertise to all policy discussions, particularly relating to the pandemic. President Biden said: 'I believe we can make more progress in the next ten years than we've done in the last 50 years. We are going to lead with science and with truth and, God willing, this is how we are going to get over this pandemic and build back better than before.'

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