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