Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious diseases official for decades and a leading researcher on crises from HIV to Covid-19, announced Monday that he would be stepping down from his positions in December.
Fauci, 81, has led the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for 38 years, serving a line of presidents from both parties since the Reagan administration. He has also served as President Biden’s chief medical adviser since Biden took office. While Fauci has telegraphed that he was planning on leaving those roles in a matter of months, Monday’s announcement makes it official.
But Fauci, known as a tireless workhorse, said he would not be retiring. “After more than 50 years of government service, I plan to pursue the next phase of my career while I still have so much energy and passion for my field,” he said. “I want to use what I have learned as NIAID Director to continue to advance science and public health and to inspire and mentor the next generation of scientific leaders as they help prepare the world to face future infectious disease threats.”
Fauci rose to national prominence and became a household name during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, becoming a celebrity of sorts as he provided guidance for Americans during the uncertain emergence of the coronavirus and at a time when others in the Trump administration downplayed the threat of the virus. But as the pandemic dragged on, Fauci became a lightning rod and a frequent target of Republican attacks over everything from research policies on viruses to his promotion of mitigation efforts that could slow the spread of the coronavirus.
In his statement, Fauci cited his work on pathogens including HIV, West Nile, flu, Ebola, and Zika.
Biden, in a statement Monday, said Fauci’s “commitment to the work is unwavering, and he does it with an unparalleled spirit, energy, and scientific integrity.”
“Because of Dr. Fauci’s many contributions to public health, lives here in the United States and around the world have been saved,” Biden said. “As he leaves his position in the U.S. Government, I know the American people and the entire world will continue to benefit from Dr. Fauci’s expertise in whatever he does next. Whether you’ve met him personally or not, he has touched all Americans’ lives with his work.”
In his statement, Health Secretary Xavier Becerra noted that Fauci helped create the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief during the George W. Bush administration, a widely lauded effort to fight HIV/AIDS around the world.
Fauci said he would help prepare NIAID — part of the National Institutes of Health — for a transition, though the statement did not mention anything about a successor.
“Thanks to the power of science and investments in research and innovation, the world has been able to fight deadly diseases and help save lives around the globe,” Fauci said. “I am proud to have been part of this important work and look forward to helping to continue to do so in the future.”