Eric Lander was confirmed, on a voice vote by the Senate, to become head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Lander, president and founding director of the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, has had strong support for most of his work as a scientist.
But his confirmation hearing centered on his handling of several past controversies. He admitted that he understated the work of Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier -- the 2020 winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry -- in a paper he published in 2016 about the pioneers behind CRISPR, a technology that allows researchers to edit DNA sequences and modify genes. “I made a mistake,” Lander said at the hearing. “When I make a mistake, I own it and try to do better. I should’ve written those paragraphs differently to make my intention crystal clear.”
Some have expressed concern about Lander over a 2018 toast Lander made to James Watson on his 90th birthday. Watson, the co-discoverer of the double-helix shape of DNA, was known in his later life for his racist and sexist views, sparking outrage on Twitter that Lander would toast him. Lander apologized shortly after the incident.