Birx joins air purifying company selling Covid tech
Deborah Birx, the former Trump White House coronavirus response coordinator, is taking a new role as chief medical and scientific adviser for an air filtration company focused on reducing Covid-19 infections.
Birx this week also joined the George W. Bush Institute — where she’ll work to address health disparities exacerbated by the pandemic — and the board of a Bay Area investment firm.
The series of moves follows Birx’s retirement from government after decades as a public health official, a run that culminated in her rocky tenure atop the White House task force charged with leading the pandemic response.
Birx’s hiring at ActivePure Technology, a Texas-based filtration company, comes as it’s seeking formal clearance from the Food and Drug Administration to market its air purifier for the purpose of removing coronavirus particles.
The company has aggressively marketed its products even as it awaits FDA’s review for Covid-19 filtering, asserting on its website that its technology has a proven “kill rate of over 99.9 percent of airborne SARS-COV-2 within 3 minutes.”
“We developed technology, called ActivePure, that destroys the COVID virus in the air and have deployed it for decades. It’s unique, and it works,” CEO Joe Urso wrote in a recent open letter to President Joe Biden, urging him to “encourage — or, where you can, require — the use of the best technology now."
FDA has given air purifier-makers greater leeway during the pandemic for how their devices could be used, but it has urged them to make clear which functions FDA has endorsed and which ones it hasn’t.
Urso in a statement to POLITICO said after the company filed for an emergency use authorization late last year, the FDA told the company to instead seek a different clearance that carries a higher standard for review and could take longer.
The FDA declined to comment.
Birx could not immediately be reached for comment. Reuters first reported her new job at ActivePure.
Birx spent years working in various parts of the federal public health bureaucracy, including as ambassador-at-large and global AIDS coordinator during the Obama administration.
But she gained national recognition under Trump, who appointed her to help coordinate the Covid response early in the pandemic. Birx played a central role in the first months of the effort, at times drawing criticism from Democrats for her upbeat portrayals of the shaky federal response and refusal to rebut former President Donald Trump's inaccurate claims.
Yet she eventually fell out of favor with Trump as he pushed for a quick reopening of the country while the virus continued raging. She spent her final months on the task force traveling the nation urging state officials to instead keep focused on limiting the virus’ spread by maintaining public health restrictions.
For her new role at the George W. Bush Institute, in addition to her pandemic-related work, she will use her global health expertise to support its broader portfolio. The organization is housed within the former president’s library and works on a range of economic and health issues.
As a government official, she had worked with the organization through a 2018 public-private partnership aimed at reducing cervical cancer cases among women living with HIV across 12 African countries.
Earlier this week, Birx also joined the board of Innoviva, which primarily collects royalties from certain lucrative GlaxoSmithKline medicines, according to a regulatory filing.
Biden officials during the transition had debated keeping on Birx to aid with the ongoing response, but she announced in December plans to retire from government, citing the toll the scrutiny of the past year had taken on her family.
In January, Birx said in an interview with CBS that she frequently contemplated quitting the Covid task force, and had to contend with “outside advisers” who often presented Trump with contradictory information on the pandemic.