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After a rocky, short-lived tenure at the National Institutes of Health, a former top federal scientist who clashed with the Trump administration in the early days of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak has resigned from his post because he allegedly made further efforts Work to thwart the nation’s pandemic response.
According to his lawyers, Dr. Rick Bright resigned from the NIH leadership on Tuesday, claiming he was “excluded from any further work to combat this deadly virus.”
In addition to his resignation, Bright has made new allegations against leading federal health officials that he said blocked his efforts to put in place a plan to better identify and screen people living with the coronavirus.
“This administration ignores or denigrates the work of academics in order to achieve political goals and to fuel President Trump’s re-election efforts,” wrote Bright’s lawyers in an addendum to a whistleblower complaint originally filed in May.
They went on to say that “there is too much at stake now for Dr. Bright to remain silent,” adding that his testing recommendations were not supported “simply for political reasons”.
President Trump previously described Bright as a “disgruntled employee”.
In April Bright, who specializes in vaccine development, was ousted from his position as Head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency (BARDA) to what he described as “less effective” after raising concerns about that high-ranking federal officials were mistreating the US outbreak.
He soon filed a whistleblower complaint detailing how he raised the alarm in January to prepare for the coronavirus, but received a backlash from administrative officials.
Bright had spent roughly six months in his new position at NIH but had not received any meaningful work since Sept. 4, according to his attorneys.
“Although the NIH was not allowed to use its vaccine and therapeutics expertise, Dr. Bright developed a plan to implement a robust national testing infrastructure,” Bright attorneys Debra Katz and Lisa Banks wrote in his resignation letter.
According to the complaint, Bright’s efforts to get federal health officials involved in its testing plan met opposition from NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, who “said Dr. Bright was concerned that the Trump administration would not approve a plan to do so.” for wide-ranging testing of asymptomatic people “and concerned about stepping on the toes of other administrators.
Bright’s complaint also states that he asked to lead Operation Warp Speed’s vaccine and drug development teams because of his expertise in vaccines, but never received a definitive response from Collins or any other NIH staff.
In May, Bright caught attention when he testified on Capitol Hill that the federal government had not prepared for the US outbreak in the early days of the overseas pandemic.
At the time, Bright was telling members of Congress that his “urges are causing a stir”.
He also said a major point of contention was his opposition to promoting the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which President Trump denounced as a possible cure for COVID-19 despite a lack of scientific data.
An NIH spokesman confirmed Bright’s resignation but said the agency was not discussing personnel issues.