Newswise — In remarks delivered on December 7th, 2020 while accepting the 2020 American Society for Cell Biology Public Service Award, Dr. Anthony Fauci, M.D. Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called the COVID-19 pandemic “my worst nightmare,” saying it “checked all the boxes of my concern.” “Once more,” Fauci said, “scientists around the world are joined with the public health community in a struggle to gain the upper hand on a novel virus and its manifold manifestations of disease.”

Dr. Fauci expressed his regret that the tools used to successfully build public trust in science in previous pandemics were not working this time. “Data-driven evidence, clear and honest messaging, global collaborations and compassion for those affected were all integral to building public trust in science as the pathway for resolving these [HIV AIDS, Anthrax attacks, SARS, 2009 N1N1 influenza Ebola, and Zika] pandemics.” 

Unlike previous public health crises, Fauci said, “our prevention toolbox currently consists of simple public health measures such as universal masking, physical distancing, and avoiding crowds that work well when people adhere to them. Unfortunately, pandemic fatigue and flat out rejection of scientific evidence are challenging our best mitigation efforts.”

In response to a public rejection of science, Dr. Fauci called on the scientific community to work to rebuild the public trust in science.

Fauci said, “As scientists, we know it is paramount in all our endeavors to let data and science-based evidence be our guide. As citizen-scientists, it is also incumbent on us all to enhance the understanding of the scientific progress [sic] and its inherent checks and balances to build and sustain the public trust in what we do. Public trust is essential to ensure that the fruits of our research, such as vaccines, reach their greatest potential benefit.

Dr. Fauci also used his remarks to thank the basic biomedical research community for its past research that helped speed the development of potential vaccines for COVID-19, saying “In this regard, fundamental research advances clearly enabled us to hit the ground running and respond to this pandemic at an unprecedented pace.”

Fauci called on the basic biomedical research community to continue to help in the fight against COVID-19, “Now many urgent research questions remain that I hope some of you may help us address.”

ASCB President Eva Nogales and Public Policy Committee chair Holly Goodson presented the award to Dr. Fauci by video conference. Nogales acknowledged the important leadership roles he has played through his career, including now. “Nogales said, “In the last seven months as the world has suffered through COVID-19, you have told us what we needed to hear, not always what we wanted to hear. And, most of the time, most of us have responded.” She continued, “The approach most people are taking to getting through these months is “I’ll do what Tony says” because of the faith they have in what you say.”

Goodson recognized the leadership role Fauci plays for the next generation of researchers. “We also want to recognize what an important role model you are for young biomedical researchers, many of whom are participating in our meeting and are wondering what the future of science will be like. You are an inspiration for them and for all of us.”

Highlights of the presentation ceremony will be a part of the Keynote address at 10 am ET on December 7 at the start of the basic science research portion of Cell Bio Virtual 2020 meeting--an online ASCB|EMBO Meeting. The complete ceremony can be seen here. Dr. Fauci's full comments can be viewed here

The American Society for Cell Biology is a professional scientific society of more than 6,000 basic researchers in all 50 of the United States and in more than 60 other countries around the world.