The National Institutes of Health’s former top scientist Dr. Rick Bright has officially resigned, claiming that the Trump administration continuously blocked his efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic during its early stages. Bright has also added to his whistleblower complaint how he voiced concerns back in January about the need to prepare for the virus but was met with immense pushback.
Bright was removed from his high ranking position as head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and placed in what he described as a “less impactful position,” after raising concerns that top U.S. officials were mishandling the pandemic. His whistleblower complaint followed in May. Bright worked in his new NIH position for nearly six months but claimed that he had not been assigned any effective work since September 4th, which led to him submitting his resignation to leadership on Tuesday.
“Although not allowed at NIH to utilize his expertise in vaccines and therapeutics, Dr. Bright developed a plan to implement a robust national testing infrastructure,” wrote Bright’s attorneys Debra Katz and Lisa Banks in his resignation announcement.
The scientist, who specializes in vaccine development, says that he was “sidelined from doing any further work to combat this deadly virus” by the Trump Administration, who is only interested in winning the election.
“In this Administration, the work of scientists is ignored or denigrated to meet political goals and to advance President Trump’s re-election aspirations,” Bright’s lawyers wrote in an addendum to his whistleblower complaint.
Trump has dismissed Bright’s claims, referring to him as nothing more than a “disgruntled employee.”
According to the complaint, Bright’s efforts to receive backing from federal health officials for his testing plan was also met with pushback from NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, who “told Dr. Bright that he feared that the Trump administration would not approve a plan that called for broad-based testing of asymptomatic people.” Collins was more concerned with possibly offending the president. Bright says that he was never given an answer from Collins or other NIH leadership when he offered his expertise in vaccines to help lead Operation Warp Speed vaccine and development teams.
Bright bravely testified before Congress back in May that his “urgings were causing a commotion” as federal officials failed to adequately prepare for the virus outbreak, which has killed over 200,000 Americans.