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Dr. Eric S. Lander is the President’s Science Advisor and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). A member of the Cabinet, Lander was sworn in on June 2, 2021 after being unanimously confirmed by the Senate. He leads OSTP in its mission to maximize the benefits of science and technology to advance health, prosperity, security, environmental quality, and justice for all Americans.
Lander was formerly president and founding director of the Broad Institute, a deeply collaborative research institute — closely affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and five of Boston’s major hospitals — that propels work on genomic medicine. A geneticist, molecular biologist, and mathematician, Lander has played a pioneering role in all aspects of the reading, understanding, and biomedical application of the human genome, and has been a consistent champion of making gene sequencing data rapidly and openly available. He was one of the principal leaders of the international Human Genome Project (HGP) from 1990 to 2003, with his center being the largest contributor to the mapping and sequencing of the human blueprint.
Lander developed powerful methods for discovering the molecular basis of human diseases. Among them were the first methods for mapping the genes underlying polygenic disorders in which many genes play a role — including heart disease, diabetes, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease; these paradigms have led to more than 100,000 discoveries connecting regions of the human genome with hundreds of diseases and traits, shedding light on the underlying biological mechanisms.
Lander is professor of biology at MIT and professor of systems biology at Harvard Medical School; he is currently on leave from both institutions. He has served on governing and advisory boards for various government agencies, academic institutions, and scientific societies, and has co-founded several successful biotechnology firms.
From 2009 to 2017, Lander served as external co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), advising the White House for all eight years of the Obama-Biden administration. PCAST is a council of the nation’s leading scientists and engineers, which advises the White House on matters including health, advanced manufacturing, energy policy, information technology, drug innovation, spectrum and communications policy, nanotechnology, and national security. He also served on the Defense Department’s Defense Innovation Board from 2016 to 2020.
In 1990, he founded the Whitehead/MIT Center for Human Genome Research, which became a flagship and leading contributor to the Human Genome Project. As the Human Genome Project reached its successful conclusion, Lander sought to perpetuate the interdisciplinary and interinstitutional collaborative spirit of the center by creating a permanent institution.
In 2004, Lander founded the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, a unique research institution focused on genomic medicine that spans Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Harvard-affiliated hospitals. Now involving a community of more than 3000 people, the Broad has become a model for a new kind of collaborative biomedical research community, enabling creative scientists to tackle important challenges that span medicine, biology, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, and engineering.
Under Lander’s leadership, the Broad created from scratch the largest nonprofit COVID-19 testing operation in the country, to support vulnerable populations and colleges and universities in the Northeast; as of June 2021, it has processed over 19 million tests to date.
For more than 30 years, Lander has worked to use science as a tool for justice. In 1989, he was the principal scientist connected to the founding of the Innocence Project – which has to date helped exonerate 375 wrongfully convicted individuals – and has since made major ongoing contributions to improving the quality of forensic science.
Lander’s honors and awards include the MacArthur Fellowship, the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, the Albany Prize in Medicine and Biological Research, the Gairdner Foundation International Award of Canada, the Dan David Prize of Israel, the Mendel Medal of the Genetics Society in the UK, the City of Medicine Award, the Abelson Prize from the AAAS, the Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology from the AAAS, the Woodrow Wilson Prize for Public Service from Princeton University, the James R. Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award from MIT, and the William Allan Award from the American Society of Human Genetics.
He was elected a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1997 and of the U.S. Institute of Medicine in 1999. In 2013, he was elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and in 2020, he was appointed to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. He has received honorary degrees from 12 colleges and universities.
Lander earned his B.A. in mathematics from Princeton University (1978) and his Ph.D. in mathematics from Oxford University (1981) as a Rhodes Scholar. He and his wife Lori are the proud parents of three adult children, Jessica, Daniel, and David, and one golden retriever.
A Letter from Eric Lander upon starting as Director of The Office of Science and Technology Policy