As reported by New York Times:
A federal scientist who says he was ousted from his job amid a dispute over an unproven malaria drug promoted by President Trump said on Tuesday that a top official at the Department of Health and Human Services repeatedly pressured him to steer millions of dollars in contracts to the clients of a well-connected lobbyist, Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports.
Dr. Rick Bright, who was the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority until his removal in April, said in a formal whistle-blower complaint that since 2017 he has been protesting “cronyism and award of contracts to companies with political connections to the administration,” including a drug company executive who is close to Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser.
The 89-page complaint, filed with the Office of Special Counsel, which protects federal whistle-blowers, also said Dr. Bright “encountered opposition” from his Health and Human Services superiors — including Health Secretary Alex M. Azar II — while pushing as early as January for the necessary resources to develop drugs and vaccines to counter the emerging pandemic.
But the complaint says Dr. Bright found an ally in Peter Navarro, Mr. Trump’s trade adviser, who “shared Dr. Bright’s sense of urgency, recognized his expertise and was prepared to help.”
Officials named in the complaint were not available for immediate comment. A lobbyist named in the complaint, John Clerici, said, “I unequivocally deny all of the allegations lodged by Dr. Bright and his lawyers.”
“It’s sad that during a pandemic, Dr. Bright and his team have chosen to distract people like Dr. Kadlec, who are critical to the response, with politically motivated allegations,” Mr. Clerici said, referring to Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response at Health and Human Services. “The record is clear that his allegations are false and will be proven so.”
The report provides a window into the inner workings of BARDA, a tiny agency created in 2006 as a response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It partners with industry in developing so-called “medical countermeasures” that can be stockpiled by the federal government to combat biological or chemical attack, and pandemic threats.
BARDA has spent billions of dollars, awarding more than 235 contractsthrough 2018 to dozens of different suppliers, including major pharmaceutical companies and smaller biotech firm. So far, more than 50 BARDA-supported products have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.