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Whistle-Blowing Scientist Quits Government With Final Broadside

WASHINGTON — Rick Bright, a senior vaccine scientist who said he was demoted this spring for complaining about “cronyism” and political interference in science, resigned his final government post on Tuesday, saying he had been sidelined and left with nothing to do.

In a new addendum to the whistle-blower complaint he filed in May, Dr. Bright’s lawyers say officials at the National Institutes of Health, where he worked after his demotion, rejected his idea for a national coronavirus testing strategy “because of political considerations.” He also accused them of ignoring his request to join the $10 billion effort to fast-track a coronavirus vaccine, known as Operation Warp Speed.

“I long to serve the American people by using my skills to fight this pandemic,” Dr. Bright wrote on Sept. 25 to Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the institutes, noting that he had 25 years of experience in vaccine development. “The taxpayers who pay my salary deserve no less.”

Dr. Bright’s resignation from the Department of Health and Human Services comes six months after he was ousted as the chief of the department’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and reassigned to a narrower job at the health institutes, which also fall under the health department. At the N.I.H, he was supposed to take the lead on developing novel point-of-care coronavirus tests. His lawyers said he did that, creating a team that awarded eight contracts to build up coronavirus testing and exhausted its budget.

But, one of his lawyers said on Tuesday, Dr. Bright “remains very concerned” about the politicization of science from the White House, especially with the arrival from Stanford’s Hoover Institution of Dr. Scott W. Atlas, a neuroradiologist without training in epidemiology or infectious diseases. Dr. Atlas’s aversion to mask wearing and his belief that “herd immunity” could stop Covid-19 have made him a favorite of President Trump’s.

During his weekly meetings with Adm. Brett P. Giroir, the assistant secretary for health, it has become clear that President Trump’s new science adviser, Dr. Scott Atlas, “who lacks a background in infectious disease, is ‘calling the shots’ at the White House,” Dr. Bright’s lawyers wrote.

Dr. Collins did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But officials at the Department of Health and Human Services have previously said that they strongly disagree with Dr. Bright’s characterizations, and Mr. Trump has called Dr. Bright a “disgruntled employee” on Twitter. An N.I.H. official said on Tuesday that the agency could “confirm that Dr. Bright has resigned, effective today,” adding that it “does not discuss personnel issues beyond confirming employment.”

Dr. Bright has been given “no meaningful work” since Sept. 4, the lawyers wrote.

“Dr. Bright was forced to leave his position at N.I.H. because he can no longer sit idly by and work for an administration that ignores scientific expertise, overrules public health guidance and disrespects career scientists, resulting in the sickness and death of hundreds of thousands of Americans,” the lawyers, Debra Katz and Lisa Banks, said in a

City of Hope Distinguished Scientist Debbie Thurmond Named New Director of Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute

Renowned diabetes researcher Arthur Riggs will continue to conduct research at the institute

Leading diabetes scientist Debbie C. Thurmond, Ph.D., has been named the new director of City of Hope’s Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute, which continues diabetes research at City of Hope that was started more than 70 years ago. Arthur Riggs, Ph.D., who developed the technology in 1978 that resulted in the first synthetic human insulin, impacting millions of lives worldwide, will continue to conduct research within the institute.

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Debbie C. Thurmond, Ph.D., director of City of Hope’s Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute (Photo: City of Hope)

“Debbie’s depth of experience as a highly successful diabetes scientist and leader, as well as her vision for the DMRI, will lead us to continue to be one of the premier diabetes institutes in the nation,” said Riggs, Samuel Rahbar Chair in Diabetes & Drug Discovery and director emeritus of Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope. “A rising star in the diabetes field, Debbie will continue to be an excellent mentor to younger, independent scientists who, along with our senior scientists, are working on innovative diabetes research.”

Thurmond joined City of Hope in 2015 as professor and founding chair of the Department of Molecular & Cellular Endocrinology within the Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute. She became deputy director of the institute last year.

“I am absolutely delighted and humbled to be named director of City of Hope’s DMRI,” said Thurmond, Ruth B. & Robert K. Lanman Chair in Gene Regulation & Drug Discovery Research. “Art has built a phenomenal institute, and I have the great pleasure of facilitating its continued growth and prominence in the diabetes space.”

In addition to leading the institute’s support of ongoing diabetes research, Thurmond will support its focus on the intersection of diabetes and cancer, helping to answer the reasons why diabetes is significantly associated with an increase in cancer. As such, the institute recently established a new department – the Department of Diabetes & Cancer Metabolism. The institute also provides endocrinology care to cancer patients, since type 2 diabetes significantly increases the risk of cancer. In addition, a growing number of highly effective cancer therapies can also cause insulin-dependent diabetes.

“With the power of City of Hope’s comprehensive cancer center alongside us, we are the only diabetes institute uniquely designed to focus on how to cure both diseases and to develop treatments to help prevent them,” Thurmond added.

The Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute’s research in other initiatives includes cellular therapies to treat type 1 and type 2 diabetes; discovering new biomarkers to identify those at risk for developing type 2 diabetes and its complications; developing drugs that precisely target the receptor molecules responsible for diabetes; improving islet cell transplantation; and reviving and/or replacing the cells that make insulin.

The institute plans to open a clinical trial for the first type 1 diabetes vaccine tested in the U.S., part of The