In a whistleblower complaint, Rick Bright, the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, alleges he was transferred from that post to a smaller role at the National Institutes of Health because he tried to "prioritize science and safety over political expediency," as the Washington Post reports.
Bright led BARDA, which has been central to the US response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic by supporting vaccine research efforts, for about four years until late April. He told the New York Times then that he was forced out of that role because he pushed for stringent testing of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, drugs President Donald Trump has touted with limited evidence as COVID-19 treatments.
In his complaint, Bright further says he had since 2017 been resisting pressure for BARDA to award contracts to certain companies that worked with John Clerici, an industry consultant with ties to his boss, Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services. Clerici in a statement to the Post says he "unequivocally" denies Bright's allegations.
"The past few years have been beyond challenging," Bright says, according to USA Today. "I was pressured to let politics and cronyism drive decisions, over opinions of the best scientists in government."