BARDA Director Rick Bright Moves to NIH to Head COVID-19 Testing R&D

Xconomy National — 

Rick Bright, who joined the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) in 2010, has suddenly left his role as director of the federal agency, which is playing a key role in advancing medical countermeasures against COVID-19.

BARDA formed in 2006; Bright (pictured) succeeded founding director Robin Robinson to the position in late 2016. The circumstances and timing of his departure, first reported Tuesday by Stat News, remain unclear.

The unit, the part of the US Department of Health and Human Services that’s responsible for acquiring and developing products that stop or address biological threats, has funded at least three companies researching vaccines; seven developing therapeutics; and 13 working on diagnostics since the start of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Gary Disbrow with HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response will serve as acting director of BARDA.

Now, according to an HHS spokesperson, Bright is joining the National Institutes of Health to head up an effort to develop and accelerate new diagnostics for the virus.

The spokesperson described the effort as a “part of a bold plan to accelerate the development and deployment of novel point-of-care testing platforms.” The NIH recently announced a public-private partnership—something with which Bright has extensive experience—but, given its focus on the development of COVID-19 vaccine and treatment options, it’s unclear how Bright’s new role will fit into that effort.