Despite playing a pivotal role in the development of treatments, vaccines, and diagnostics against the novel coronavirus, Rick Bright has left his leadership position within the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency (BARDA), first reported by STAT.
Bright first joined BARDA in 2010 as the leader of its Influenza and Emerging Infectious Diseases Division before being made director for the agency in 2016. In addition to his position at BARDA, he holds a position as an advisor to the WHO.
Bright will move from his role to a position within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with his deputy, Gary Disbrow, acting as temporary director for the agency.
The news that Bright will move away from his leadership position arrives as the agency has recently provided significant financial support to some of the leading projects to find a vaccine for COVID-19.
Last week, it was announced that Moderna was in line to receive $483m (€446m) from BARDA to advance its mRNA vaccine and to scale up manufacturing to provide millions of doses. While last month, BARDA partnered with Johnson & Johnson and between them $1bn will be invested in vaccine research, development and clinical testing.
The decision made to change the individual responsible for coordinating medical countermeasures to the pandemic arrives as the global number of infections approaches 2.6m, with approximately 825,000 of those being within the US, according to John Hopkins University.
In a statement provided to CNN, Bright said that he had been removed and 'involuntarily transferred' to his new position at the NIH.
Further than this, Bright explained, "I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the COVID-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit."
He continued to suggest that it was his opposition to the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine that had prompted his dismissal.
Update: The original article was updated with comment from a public statement by Rick Bright.