Biden picks geneticist as science adviser, puts in Cabinet

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FILE - In this Sept. 7, 2010, file photo, Eric Steven Lander, head of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, gestures as he delivers a speech during the forum Mexico XXI Century, organized by the Telmex Foundation, in Mexico City. President-elect Joe Biden picked a pioneering geneticist to be his science advisor and elevated the job to his Cabinet. Friday's announcement of Lander won wide praise (AP Photo/Claudio Cruz, File)

President-elect Joe Biden announced Friday that he has chosen a pioneer in mapping the human genome — the so-called “book of life” — to be his chief science adviser and is elevating the top science job to a Cabinet position.

Biden nominated Eric Lander, founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, who was the lead author of the first paper announcing the details of the human genome, as director of Office of Science and Technology Policy and adviser on science. He is the first life scientist to have that job. His predecessor is a meteorologist.

Saying “science will always be at the forefront of my administration,” Biden said he is boosting the science advisor post to Cabinet level, a first in White House history.

The president-elect also said he is retaining National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins, who worked with Lander on the human genome project, and named two prominent female scientists to co-chair the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Frances Arnold, a California Institute of Technology chemical engineer who won the 2018 Nobel Prize in chemistry, and MIT vice president for research and geophysics professor Maria Zuber will co-chair the outside science advisory council. Lander held that position during Obama administration.

Collins, in an email statement, called Lander “brilliant, visionary, exceptionally creative and highly effective in aspiring others.”

“I predict he will have a profound transformational effect on American science,” Collins said.

The job as director of science and technology policy requires Senate confirmation.