Rick Bright Steps Down as Director of BARDA: Why?

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Director of U.S. agency key to vaccine development leaves role suddenly amid coronavirus pandemic

by Nicholas Florko/STAT news

Washington: Rick Bright, one of the nation’s leading vaccine development experts and the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, is no longer leading the organization, officials told STAT.

The shakeup at the agency, known as BARDA, couldn’t come at a more inopportune time for the office, which invests in drugs, devices, and other technologies that help address infectious disease outbreaks and which has been at the center of the government’s coronavirus pandemic response.

Bright, whose departure was confirmed by three industry sources and two current Trump administration sources, will instead move into a narrower role at the National Institutes of Health. Gary Disbrow, Bright’s former deputy at BARDA, will serve as the acting director of the office, an HHS spokesperson confirmed to STAT.

BARDA was expected to play an even larger role in the coming months; Congress more than tripled BARDA’s budget in the most recent coronavirus stimulus package. Already, the office has a role in some of the splashiest Covid-19 projects, including partnerships with Johnson & Johnson and Moderna Therapeutics, both of which are developing potential Covid-19 treatments.

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