How NIAID Reforms Could Set an Example for Other Agencies
As Raymond March noted, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), manages a staff of 5,300 government officials, oversees research efforts in more than 100 countries, and commands a budget of $6.3 billion. Those dollars all come from American taxpayers, who have a right to know if this money is spent wisely.
Consider the experience of Dr. Jonathan Fishbein as Director of the National Institute of Health’s Office for Policy in Clinical Research Operations. The biologist and medical safety expert, who earned his MD at Johns Hopkins, was fired after flagging misconduct in Dr. Fauci’s trial of nevirapine to treat AIDS. Dr. Fishbein was fully vindicated, and it was also revealed that Dr. Fauci’s AIDS study in Africa violated federal safety regulations. In addition, starting in the late 1980s, researchers funded by Dr. Fauci used foster children to test AIDS drugs. Dr. Fishbein did not return to his position, but the safety expert had learned a crucial lesson.
“Dealing with Tony Fauci is like dealing with organized crime,” Dr. Fishbein told Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in The Real Anthony Fauci.
He’s like the godfather. He has connections everywhere. He’s always got people that he’s giving money to in powerful positions to make sure he gets his way, that he gets what he wants. These connections give him the ultimate power to fix everything, control every narrative, escape all consequences, and sweep all the dirt and all the bodies under the carpet and to terrorize and destroy anyone who crosses him.
As doctors Jayanta Bhattacharya and Martin Kulldorff note, Dr. Fauci teamed with National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins for a “quick and devastating published takedown” of the Great Barrington Declaration, which challenged Dr. Fauci’s draconian lockdown policy. Like the firing of Dr. Fishbein, this was hardly a legitimate use of public funds.
This retaliation is what happens when one man heads a $6.3 billion institute for 38 years. Dr. Fauci’s bio shows no advanced molecular biology or biochemistry degrees, yet he claims to represent science. As NIAID boss, he exercised executive, legislative and judicial functions—punishing whistleblowers such as Dr. Fishbein—with no need to face the voters and little if any accountability. This pattern must change, and Drs. Bhattacharya and Kulldorff show the way ahead.
“In academic medicine, landing an NIH grant makes or breaks careers, so scientists have a strong incentive to stay on the right side of NIH and NIAID priorities,” the Stanford and Harvard doctors contend. “If we want scientists to speak freely in the future, we should avoid having the same people in charge of public health policy and medical research funding.”
Those functions should be permanently separated, and NIAID cut down to size. The new director should work under a five-year contract, renewable only once and subject to review. The NIH officials and the president should have full power to dismiss the NIAID director.
In addition, every NIAID grant application, with all particulars, should be posted on a government website in a timely fashion and in downloadable form. With these common-sense reforms, NIAID could enhance accountability for taxpayers, curb fraud and abuse, and serve as an example for other federal and state agencies.