US President-elect Joe Biden announced Friday he is upgrading the White House science advisor position to cabinet-level — a sharp break from predecessor Donald Trump as America grapples with the pandemic.
The former vice-president will have to grapple with a nation hard-hit by Covid-19: known infections have surpassed 23 million with almost 400,000 deaths recorded.
Eric Lander, a geneticist who helped map the human genome, will head the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and advise Biden.
“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 announcing the appointment of Lander and other experts.
“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,” he added.
Lander is president and founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, a top non-profit biomedical research.
He tweeted that he was “humbled and excited” to serve, adding: “So much to be done, and it will take everyone working together.”
Trump is famously sceptical of science, questioning climate change and once referring to Anthony Fauci and other government pandemic advisers who called on Americans to wear masks and social distance as “idiots.”