Since taking office in January, President Joe Biden has reaffirmed a national commitment to integrity in scholarship and research, appointing scientists to numerous leadership roles.
Educators and experts applaud these appointments and say elevating intellectual integrity in research and science will take the combined effort of universities, industry and the public, too.
Biden appointed Eric Lander — who in 2001 was the first author on a paper published in the science journal Nature that heralded human genome sequencing — to be the head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Biden elevated the post to Cabinet-level status for the first time. We can now say synthetic biology is in the White House.
Here is Dr. Lander’s background:
Dr. Eric Lander is the President and Founding Director of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, a new kind of biomedical research institution focused on genomic medicine. Dr. Lander is also Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Dr. Lander was a principal leader of the international Human Genome Project (HGP), which completed mapping the human blueprint in 2003. A geneticist, molecular biologist and mathematician, Dr. Lander’s biomedical research also has ranged over mammalian genomics; human population genetics; medical genetics – including cancer, diabetes, inflammatory diseases and many other genetic conditions; evolution; and computational biology.
In 2003, Dr. Lander helped found the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, a unique collaborative research organization that spans Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Harvard-affiliated hospitals. Under Dr. Lander’s leadership, researchers at the Broad Institute have developed many of the critical new tools needed to understand the molecular basis of human diseases. They have applied these tools to mapping, sequencing and comparing the human, mouse and other genomes to reveal its functional elements; understanding the genetic variation in the human population and its relationship to disease susceptibility; understanding the distinctive cellular signatures of diseases and of cellular responses to drugs; discovering the mutations underlying cancer and understanding the cellular pathways in which they function; and developing powerful new approaches to chemistry and chemical screening to identify drug-like molecules.
Dr. Lander is also Professor of Biology at MIT and Professor of Systems Biology at the Harvard Medical School. In 2008, Dr. Lander was appointed by President Obama to co-chair the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). PCAST is a council of 21 of the nation’s leading scientists and engineers, charged with providing direct advice to President on matters of science and technology.
Born in Brooklyn, NY in 1957, Dr. Lander attended Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan. He earned a B.A. in mathematics from Princeton University in 1978 and a Ph.D. in mathematics from Oxford University in 1981, which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar. He was an assistant and associate professor of managerial economics at the Harvard Business School from 1981-1990. He served as a Whitehead Fellow from 1986-1989. In 1990, Dr. Lander became Professor of Biology at MIT and Member of the Whitehead Institute. He founded the Whitehead/MIT Center for Human Genome Research, which was both a flagship of and leading contributor to the HGP, and which also became a cornerstone of the new Broad Institute. Dr. Lander’s honors and awards include the MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship in 1987, the Woodrow Wilson Prize for Public Service from Princeton University in 1998, the City of Medicine Award in 2001, the Gairdner Foundation International Award of Canada in 2002, the AAAS Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology in 2004, and the Albany Prize in Medicine and Biological Research in 2010.
He was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2004 and by US News and World Report as one of America’s Top 20 Leaders in 2006. He was elected a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1997 and of the U.S. Institute of Medicine in 1999. He has received honorary degrees from eight colleges and universities, and has served on governing and advisory boards for various government agencies, academic institutions, scientific societies and corporations.