Biden Announces Nominees for Key Positions on Health and Science

Date posted: 
Thursday, January 21, 2021 - 12:15
Blog poster: 
Doug Farquhar, JD
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The incoming Biden Administration has announced cabinet nominees, many White House positions, and several nominees for key posts within the administration.

Regarding science, the new administration has elevated the president’s science advisor and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) to a cabinet level position. Eric Lander has been announced for this position, along with Alondra Nelson as his deputy director. Dr. Lander is a professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and professor of systems biology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Nelson is on faculty at Princeton.

The OSTP Chief of Staff will be Kei Koizumi, formerly the senior advisor for science policy at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Narda Jones, senior technology policy advisor at the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will serve as director of legislative affairs for OSTP.

Frances Arnold and Maria Zuber will cochair the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Dr. Arnold comes from the California Institute of Technology and received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Dr. Zuber is vice president for research at MIT.

Positions within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are filling up. Andrea Palm has been nominated as the deputy secretary of HHS. She has held a number of roles at HHS including acting assistant secretary for legislation, chief of staff, and senior counselor to the secretary. She currently serves as secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Dr. Rachel Levine has been nominated as assistant secretary for health at HHS.

Francis Collins has been asked to remain as director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

For the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Biden has appointed Dr. Rochelle Walensky. She is on faculty at Harvard Medical School and chaired NIH’s Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council under the Obama Administration. The CDC director does not require a Senate confirmation to take office. She recently stated in a New York Times op-ed that she will lead with “facts, science, and integrity—and being accountable for them.”

At the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), Janet McCabe will be returning as the deputy administrator serving under U.S. EPA nominee Michael Regan. She served as acting assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation during the Obama Administration. She currently is faculty of Indiana University’s McKinney School of Law. There are 12 other positions requiring confirmation including assistant administrators for the Office of Air and Radiation, Office of Water, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, and Office of Research and Development.

At the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), Biden picked Brenda Mallory as chair. Mallory worked several years at U.S. EPA and as general counsel for CEQ. She currently is director of regulatory policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center. Cecilia Martinez has been nominated to serve as senior director for environmental justice at CEQ. She is the cofounder and executive director at the Center for Earth, Energy, and Democracy.

Most cabinet agencies come with around 13–14 nominated positions that require Senate confirmation: HHS has 18 appointees, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has 13 appointees, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has 13 appointees.


NEHA's Doug FarquharDoug Farquhar is the director of Government Affairs at the National Environmental Health Association in Denver, Colorado.