Dr Rick Bright Wiki – Dr Rick Bright Biography
Rick Arthur Bright (born June 7, 1966), is an American immunologist and public health official. Bright is the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), leading the authority from 2016 to 2020. In May 2020, he filed a whistleblower complaint, alleging that his early warnings about the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic were ignored and that he was illegally retaliated against by ousted from his role and being moved to a new position.
Dr. Rick Bright is the highest-ranking government scientist to charge the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been slow and chaotic. He says it has prioritized politics over science, and has cost people their lives.
It has cost Dr. Bright his job. In April, he was removed from a top position in the Department of Health and Human Services, and transferred to what he considers a position of less stature and responsibility. Dr. Bright has filed a whistleblower complaint running over 300 pages.
Dr. Rick Bright says he’s trained his entire life to recognize outbreaks and viruses. But when he sounded the alarm about the impending coronavirus pandemic, he says the Trump administration ignored his warnings and eventually pushed him out of his job.
Facts You Need to Know
Hutchinson, Kansas, United States
Emory University (2002), Auburn University (1997)
Early life and education
Bright was born and raised in Hutchinson, Kansas.
In 1984, Bright graduated from Hutchinson High School. Following two years at the University of Kansas, he enlisted in the military, and after his discharge, he received a Bachelor of Science degree, magna cum laude, from Auburn University-Montgomery) in 1997 with a double-major in Biology (medical technology) and Physical Science (chemistry). His undergraduate academic advisor was Jeff Barksdale. In 2002, Bright earned a Ph.D. in immunology and molecular pathogenesis (virology) from the Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine. His dissertation was titled, Studies on pathogenicity and control of H5N1 influenza A viruses in mice. Bright’s doctoral advisor was Jacqueline Katz. In 2010, Bright completed the Advanced Course in Vaccinology (ADVAC) from the Fondation Mérieux and University of Geneva in Annecy, France.
From 1990 to 1992, Bright worked as a product manager in the Research & Development Department of Osborn Laboratories in Olathe, Kansas. From 1994 to 1995, he was a research assistant in the Flow Cytometry Department of the Alabama Reference Lab in Montgomery, Alabama. From 1997 to 2000, Bright worked at the Emory University Department of Microbiology and Immunology and in the Vaccine Research Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
From 1998 to 2002, Bright worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, in the Influenza Branch, Immunology and Viral Pathogenesis Section, where he studied Influenza A virus subtype H5N1.
From 2002 to 2003, Bright shifted to working at the pharmaceutical company, Altea Therapeutics (a subsidiary of Nitto Denko) in Atlanta, Georgia, where he was a senior research scientist in their Vaccine and Immunology Programs.
In 2003, Bright rejoined the CDC as an immunologist/virologist in their Disease Control and Prevention, Influenza Division, Strain Surveillance Branch in Atlanta, Georgia, where he worked on their influenza antiviral drug program and focused on avian influenza. He held that position until 2006.
From 2006 to 2008, Bright returned to working in the private sector of the biotechnology industry at Novavax in Maryland, where he was vice president of their global influenza programs as well as of their vaccine research and development. During this time, he participated in World Health Organization committees on vaccine development and pandemic preparedness.
In February 2008, Bright worked at the non-profit PATH on a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant funded project as the director in vaccine manufacturing capacity building in Viet Nam. He was also the scientific director of the influenza vaccine project as well as the global vaccine development program, a position he held until October 2010.
In 2010, Bright joined the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) governmental agency Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). He was the program lead of BARDA International Programs, then in June 2011 became acting chief of the influenza antiviral drug advanced development program, a position he held until December 2011. From June 2011 to December 2015, he was both deputy director and acting director of BARDA’s Influenza and Emerging Diseases Division, eventually serving as director of the division from December 2014 to November 2016. From February 2016 to November 2016, he was an incident commander in the ASPR/BARDA Zika Response.
On November 15, 2016, President Obama appointed Bright to the position of Director of BARDA. Bright succeeded founding director Robin Robinson. In addition to his role as Director of BARDA, Bright was also Deputy Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR).
On April 20, 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, Bright was reassigned to the National Institutes of Health. An HHS spokesperson said Bright’s new role will be to help “accelerate the development and deployment of novel point-of-care testing platforms”. Bright characterized his transfer as a retaliatory demotion and asked the HHS Inspector General to investigate it. As of May 5, Bright had not reported to NIH to start his new assignment.
COVID-19 whistleblower complaint
On May 5, 2020 Bright filed a whistleblower complaint, alleging that his early warnings about the coronavirus were ignored. In his complaint, delivered through videoconference, Bright asked to be reinstated as director at BARDA, accusing the Trump Administration of firing him in retaliation for his warnings about the virus and his opposition to off-label use of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which increased mortality in subjects. He also suggested that the administration was prioritizing “cronyism over science”. On May 8, 2020, the United States Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency which protects whistleblowers, reported that it found reasonable grounds for an investigation, and said he should be reinstated as head of BARDA while the investigation is undertaken. However, the recommendation is not binding on HHS. On May 14, 2020 Bright testified before the Health Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. In a written statement issued the day before, he warned that 2020 could be “the darkest winter in modern history” if the country does not undertake a vigorous response to fight the virus. “Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities,” he said.
Mike Bowen, an executive vice president of Prestige Ameritech, a Texas manufacturer of medical equipment, followed Bright’s committee testimony. He discussed what he described as the ongoing irrationality and costs of the government’s procurement of Personal protective equipment (PPE), specifically N95 masks, going as far back as the H1-N1, 2009 swine flu pandemic. However, he also expressed his concern over the treatment Bright had received as he gave testimony, saying, “I’ve watched all of this a little while ago. It seemed like everyone who was beating up on Dr. Bright was a Republican and everyone who was defending him was a Democrat. I’m a Republican, I voted for President Trump and I admire Dr. Bright.” “I think what he said made a lot of sense, and I believe him.” Asked afterward about the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic, including the reassignment of Bright, Bowen said he was, “…embarrassed by how that’s been handled.” “Like Rick Bright said, it’s the scientists we need to be listening to, and we’re not.”