New Science Advisor Named
President-Elect Joe Biden announced Eric Lander as his science advisor and head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Lander is a geneticist and the president and founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. For the first time, the head of the White House OSTP will be elevated to a cabinet position.
“Eric Lander is a true Renaissance scientist in his broad grasp of the many fields of science and their interrelationships,” Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences, told The New York Times. “At a time when the nation and the world face complex challenges that will require harnessing the full power of physical, life, environmental, social, biomedical, and engineering sciences, Eric is an inspired choice of a scientist of international stature to ensure that science guides sound policy.”
Lander is highly regarded in the scientific community. He co-led the Human Genome Project and won the MacArthur Foundation Genius Award at the age of 30. In 2003, he founded The Broad Institute, which is a leading medical and genomic research center. Lander plans to take academic leave from the Broad to serve in the White House, and cancer geneticist Todd Golub, the institute’s current chief scientific officer, plans to succeed Lander as director of the Broad. From 2009 to 2017, Lander cochaired former President Barack Obama’s President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), evaluating topics such as energy, climate change, and vaccine response in the face of pandemic influenza.
Many in the scientific community have suggested that the head of OSTP should be a cabinet position, so this is a step in the positive direction. “Having science elevated to its rightful place in the administration seems to be a very positive step,” says Harold Varmus, a cancer researcher at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City and a former head of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) told Nature. “I think it marks a very important moment in the history of science in the government.”