Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to President Joe Biden, has announced today (August 22) that he is stepping down from his main leadership and government advisory roles. The move, which will take effect in December, will see Fauci leave his positions as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and Chief of the NIAID Laboratory of Immunoregulation, as well as his advisory role at the White House.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to have led the NIAID, an extraordinary institution, for so many years and through so many scientific and public health challenges,” Fauci says in his announcement. In the next few months, he adds, “I will continue to put my full effort, passion and commitment into my current responsibilities, as well as help prepare the Institute for a leadership transition. [The National Institutes of Health] is served by some of the most talented scientists in the world, and I have no doubt that I am leaving this work in very capable hands.”

Fauci, a prominent infectious diseases researcher, has led NIAID for nearly four decades. He has advised seven presidents, according to The New York Times, and oversaw the development of a global response to HIV/AIDS under President George W. Bush. Yet it was the COVID-19 pandemic that thrust him into the public eye and made him the target of political and personal attacks, as disagreements arose about COVID-19 vaccinations and public health measures such as mask wearing and lockdowns.

He famously clashed with politicians and other members of the government under President Donald Trump early on in the pandemic, and tells the Times that some Trump aides tried to “discredit” him. Speaking about those aides, he continues: “If you are propagating lies, the person who is telling the truth based on science all of a sudden becomes the adversary.”

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His announcement today is not unexpected. The 81-year-old told news outlets such CNN earlier this summer, for example, that he planned to retire before the end of Biden’s term, and has spoken about his career winding down to Politico and others. 

“I am privileged to know Dr. Fauci professionally and personally and deeply admire his decades of public service that have undoubtedly improved the health of millions of people globally,” US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra says in a statement, adding: “I will be sorry to see Dr. Fauci depart in December, but I wish him all the best in his future endeavors and look forward to witnessing his next chapter.”

Fauci tells the Times that he hopes that the US will have approached “a steady state” when it comes to living with circulating COVID-19 by the time he leaves his roles. “I’m not happy about the fact that we still have 400 [coronavirus] deaths per day,” he says. “We need to do much better than that. So I don’t think I can say that I’m satisfied with where we are. But I hope that over the next couple of months, things will improve.”