Biden names geneticist Lander for new Cabinet-level post, elevating role of science

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President-elect Joe Biden named pioneering geneticist Eric Lander as the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy on Friday, elevating the post to Cabinet-level status for first time.

FILE PHOTO: Eric Lander (right) at a news conference in Mexico City, next to Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, on Jan. 19, 2010. REUTERS/Henry Romero/File Photo

Lander, a Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who helped lead the Human Genome Project, will also serve in the role of presidential science adviser, Biden’s team said.

“Science will always be at the forefront of my administration — and these world-renowned scientists will ensure everything we do is grounded in science, facts, and the truth,” Biden said in a statement, which announced several personnel appointments to the White House science team.

“Their trusted guidance will be essential as we come together to end this pandemic, bring our economy back, and pursue new breakthroughs to improve the quality of life of all Americans,” Biden said.

Lander, 63, will succeed meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier, who was named director by President Donald Trump in 2019 after the role was left vacant for nearly two years.

Biden, who will be sworn in as president on Jan. 20, excoriated Trump repeatedly during the election campaign for undermining faith in science, whether it was Trump’s downplaying of evidence of climate change or suggesting injecting disinfectants might treat COVID-19.

Biden has pledged to increase funding in U.S. research and development, including medical research and clean energy. He also appointed former Secretary of State John Kerry as a special presidential envoy for climate.

“Tremendously excited to work alongside so many bright minds to advise the President-elect and push the boundaries of what we dare to believe is possible. We need everyone,” Lander said in a tweet.

The duties of OSTP, the White House’s top body for space policy formation under former President Barack Obama, could clash with the National Space Council that Trump revived in 2017.

Biden’s transition team is weighing whether to disband or keep the council, a person familiar with the team’s planning said.

Reporting by Joey Roulette in Washington; Writing by Michael Martina; Editing by Matthew Lewis

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