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Dr. Rick Bright, former director of a federal office that grants funding for medical emergencies, filed a whistleblower complaint last week about a medication that could be a COVID-19 treatment, according to ProPublica.

  • Bright wrote in his whistleblower complaint that he was wary of Emory University professor George Painter and biotech consultant John Clerici, who requested funding for a potential coronavirus treatment from Bright’s office, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.
  • Instead of going through BARDA’s formal application process, Painter and Clerici sought a fast-track and much more opaque program created by Bright’s boss, Robert Kadlec, who, according to Bright, looked at the pitch favorably from the start.
  • Kadlec was appointed by the Trump administration and is a personal friend of Painter’s.
  • Bright said he urged caution regarding the treatment, called EIDD-2801, due to Painter’s lack of data on the drug’s effects in humans.
  • Kadlec’s attempt to “circumvent” Bright to secure funding for the drug was ultimately unsuccessful, he said.
  • “The compound was cleared by the FDA last month to start phase one human trials, the first of several steps to test the drug’s safety and effectiveness,” ProPublica noted.

Bright testified on Thursday at a House hearing on scientific integrity in the COVID-19 response.

  • Bright was switched from BARDA to another government job in April, a move that he believes to be retaliation for speaking out against the Trump administration’s coronavirus response.
  • Last Friday, Bright was recommended by the office that handled the federal whistleblower case to be reinstalled in his former job.

The scientist wrote in a statement:

I am testifying today because science — not politics or cronyism — must lead the way to combat this deadly virus.

ProPublica consulted Katherine Seley-Radtke, a scientist and professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, for the validity of the research on the new drug. Seley-Radtke responded that the results are positive but “very preliminary,” as it went through a huge leap from testing cell cultures to testing in humans.

See the full report here.