Marrazzo to succeed Fauci as NIAID director


After months of deliberations, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has a new director to replace Dr Anthony Fauci, who held the role for 38 years before stepping down at the end of last year.

Dr Jeanne Marrazzo, who is currently head of the infectious diseases division at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, will take up the position in the autumn, according to Lawrence Tabak, acting director of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Marrazzo is known for her research on sexually transmitted infections – including HIV prevention using pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), bacterial vaginosis and antibiotic resistance in gonorrhoea – and is an expert in the human microbiome as it relates to female reproductive tract infections and hormonal contraception as well as LGBTQ+ health.

At the NIAID, she will oversee a budget of $6.3 billion dedicated to research into the causes of infectious diseases, ways to prevent, diagnose and treat them, and the response to outbreaks.

Fauci retired from the NIAID role last year after a torrid couple of years during the pandemic, in which he became a household name but also became the target of groups complaining about the NIAID's handling of COVID-19, including former president Donald Trump and his supporters.

Marrazzo has also been drawn into the firing line in the past, amid the polarised debate in the US on facemasks to prevent COVID-19 spread, after advocating for their use in schools.

"Dr Marrazzo brings a wealth of leadership experience from leading international clinical trials and translational research, managing a complex organisational budget that includes research funding and mentoring trainees in all stages of professional development," said Tabak.

"I look forward to welcoming Dr Marrazzo to the NIH leadership team," he added, whilst thanking acting NIAID director Hugh Auchincloss, who stepped in to lead the agency after Fauci departed.

Marrazzo's appointment – which is not a political one subject to rounds of congressional scrutiny – comes as President Joe Biden's nominated successor to Tabak at the NIH has been held up in the Senate.

National Cancer Institute (NCI) director Monica Bertagnolli was nominated in May, but a Politico report notes that independent Senator Bernie Sanders is blocking her appointment over Biden's drug pricing agenda, while Senator Elizabeth Warren is seeking assurances she will not work for a pharma company for four years after leaving the NIH.