WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden announced new members of his science team on Saturday as well as his plan to elevate the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to a Cabinet-level position for the first time, a move meant to highlight his commitment to science.
“We’re going to lead with science and truth,” Biden said at a speech introducing his new appointees in Delaware on Saturday. “We believe in both.”
Biden nominated Eric Lander to the position. Lander, who will require Senate confirmation, is a mathematician and geneticist who helped map the human genome and founded the Broad Institute, a biomedical research center known for their work on the gene-editing technology CRISPR-Cas9.
Lander is also a biology professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School and previously served on President Barack Obama’s council of science advisers.
The decision to elevate Lander to Cabinet-level is a sharp break from President Donald Trump who spent much of his term downplaying and second-guessing health and science experts. The position Lander will fill sat vacant for nearly two years under Trump.
Biden also announced Saturday that Dr. Alondra Nelson will serve as deputy director for science and society of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and Maria Zuber and Frances Arnold will serve as co-chairs of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
Dr. Francis Collins will stay on as Director of the National Institutes of Health.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, whose mother was a scientist, said that she grew up with a fundamental belief in collecting data and making decisions “based on evidence.”
“The science behind climate change is not a hoax. The science behind the virus is not partisan. The same laws apply, the same evidence holds true regardless of whether or not you accept them,” Harris said.
Biden said his science team will focus on five key areas: the coronavirus pandemic, the economy, the climate crisis, industry technology advancements and the long-term health of science and tech in the country.
Biden, who lost a son to cancer, said that ending the disease will also be a top priority for his administration and it would be a signature issue for incoming first lady Dr. Jill Biden.
“When I announced that I would not run for president in 2015, I said that I had only one regret — that I wouldn’t be the president who presided over the end of cancer as we know it,” Biden said. “As president, I will do everything we can to get it done.”
Ron Klain, Biden’s incoming White House chief of staff, also announced Saturday that Biden would sign roughly a dozen executive orders on Inauguration Day that will extend the existing pause on student loan payments, re-join the Paris Agreement, and reverse the Muslim travel ban.