Head of US agency leading COVID-19 vaccine development has a new role

Rick Bright, PhD, head of the HHS agency at the center of the government's coronavirus pandemic response, left the role April 21, as first reported by STAT

Dr. Bright, one of the country's leading vaccine development experts, was director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which has led federal efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. 

BARDA is expected to play an even larger role in the pandemic response since Congress more than tripled its budget in the most recent stimulus package, according to STAT

Dr. Bright, who became director in 2016, will move to a narrower role at the National Institutes of Health, where he will work on diagnostics, an NIH spokesperson told STAT

Gary Disbrow, former deputy director of BARDA, will become acting director, an HHS spokesperson confirmed to STAT.

In a statement to The New York Times, Dr. Bright said he was pressured to direct money toward hydroxychloroquine and that he believes his job transfer "was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the COVID-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit."

Editor's note: This article was updated on April 23 at 9 a.m. CDT to reflect new information reported by The New York Times. 


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