Rick Bright, Trump administration vaccine expert turned whistleblower, resigns NIH post

Nicholas Florko
Dr. Richard Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health on May 14, 2020, in Washington, DC.
Shawn Thew | POOL | AFP | Getty Images

Rick Bright, the Trump administration vaccine expert turned whistleblower, resigned from the federal government Tuesday, according to a press release from his lawyer.

Bright, who headed the powerful Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, was abruptly reassigned in April to a lesser position at the National Institutes of Health. Bright has alleged he was moved after raising concerns about the Trump administration's response to Covid-19 and nepotism within the Department of Health and Human Services. In May, he filed a formal whistleblower complaint against his former employer.

In an amended whistleblower complaint filed Tuesday, Bright said that he had only been given one assignment since being assigned to the NIH, which is now complete.

"Dr. Bright has been assigned no meaningful work since September 4, 2020, when he completed the one assignment given to him at NIH," the complaint states. "He has been idle for weeks … The federal government is paying Dr. Bright, one of the nation's leading experts in pandemic preparedness and response, and an internationally recognized expert in vaccine and diagnostic development, to sit on his hands during a global pandemic that has, to date, killed one million people globally and over 210,000 people within the United States."

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Bright also said in the new complaint that he has requested to work specifically on Operation Warp Speed's vaccine and therapeutic work. He claims he has not been given additional assignments because of political grudges.

That lack of work, Bright argues in the new complaint, constitutes a "constructive discharge" from the government, a term used to describe when an employer makes a workplace so hostile that it forces the employee to quit.

It's unclear whether Bright's latest claim will impact his pending case before the government.

The Office of Special Counsel, which reviews whistleblower complaints, has recommended that Bright be reinstated to his old job at BARDA pending a full investigation of his complaint, but HHS has ignored that recommendation. It is not clear when the full investigation will be completed.