Biden is reportedly close to picking former FDA chief Robert Califf to lead the federal health agency again as the November deadline approaches

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  • President Joe Biden is reportedly close to electing Robert Calif to head US Food and Drug Administration
  • Calif, a cardiologist associated with the pharmaceutical industry, previously led the FDA for less than a year, from February 2016 to January 2017.
  • Acting Commissioner Dr Janet Woodcock’s term is set to end next month, by which time Biden must choose a new chief
  • The new commissioner will be responsible for overseeing the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and handling recent disputes related to the agency.

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President Joe Biden is reportedly close to electing Robert Calif to head the US Food and Drug Administration by the November deadline. Image: California testifies during a nomination hearing before a Senate committee, November 2015

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President Joe Biden is reportedly close to choosing a new chief to head the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — and it’s a well-known name.

Robert Califf, who was FDA commissioner between February 2016 and January 2017, is once again in the top spot to lead the federal health agency, three sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said. Washington Post.

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The role is currently held by Acting Commissioner Dr Janet Woodcock, who took office in January 2021.

A full-time commissioner must be named soon, as Woodcock cannot hold the title of the previous November.

Calif will return to the FDA because it has several high-profile decisions to make.

The new commissioner will be responsible for seeing the end of the COVID-19 pandemic – particularly concerning boosters and vaccines in young children – and for handling recent controversies related to the agency such as the approval of a new Alzheimer’s drug despite scant evidence.

Robert Calif led the FDA for less than a year during the end of the Obama administration and was confirmed in an 89-4 vote on February 22, 2016.

Calif, a cardiologist associated with the pharmaceutical industry, previously headed the FDA for less than a year, from February 2016 to January 2017, when Biden was vice president.  Pictured: Biden gives an update on the COVID-19 response and vaccination schedule on October 14

Calif, a cardiologist associated with the pharmaceutical industry, previously headed the FDA for less than a year, from February 2016 to January 2017, when Biden was vice president. Pictured: Biden gives an update on the COVID-19 response and vaccination schedule on October 14

The new commissioner will be responsible for overseeing the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and handling recent disputes related to the agency.  Pictured: Signage is seen outside FDA Headquarters in White Oak, Maryland

The new commissioner will be responsible for overseeing the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and handling recent disputes related to the agency. Pictured: Signage is seen outside FDA Headquarters in White Oak, Maryland

The Post reports that his nomination was met with opposition from some senators, such as Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who criticized his ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

Calif graduated from Duke University School of Medicine in 1978 and began an internal medicine residency in North Carolina, only to switch to cardiology.

He was Professor of Cardiology at Duke from 1980 to 2015 and was the founding director of the Duke Clinical Research Institute, the self-proclaimed ‘largest academic research organization’ in the world.

Calif had close ties with pharmaceutical companies, convinced them to fund larger trials at Duke, and was a paid consultant for firms such as Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Company, and Eli Lilly.

In January 2015, he was appointed deputy commissioner of the FDA’s Office of Medical Products and Tobacco, before becoming head of the entire agency.

He stepped down in January 2017 and Scott Gottlieb took on the role as the first FDA chief during the Trump administration.

On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden had not yet made a final decision.

“We are certainly looking forward to doing it in short order,” she said.

Before the news that Calif was about to run for the job, politician Told at least four others were being considered.

Dr Janet Woodcock (pictured) is the agency's acting commissioner, although her interim term is due to expire next month.  He is facing opposition from some Democrats in the Senate.

Dr Janet Woodcock (pictured) is the agency’s acting commissioner, although her interim term is due to expire next month. He is facing opposition from some Democrats in the Senate.

Dr. Laurie Glimmer (pictured) was among the favorites to be named FDA commissioner by President Joe Biden.  She currently serves as the President and CEO of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Dr. Laurie Glimmer (pictured) was among the favorites to be named FDA commissioner by President Joe Biden. She currently serves as the President and CEO of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The shortlist included Woodcock, Dr. Laurie Gleicher of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Dr. Joshua Scharfstein of Johns Hopkins University and Michelle McMurry-Heath of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization.

Woodcock was named acting commissioner at Biden’s inauguration, replacing Trump-appointed Dr. Stephen Hahn. who resigned in the midst of the beginning of a new administration.

She was among those being considered for the role, but some senators have vocally opposed her appointment to the role – senators would require her to confirm her appointment as Democrats are currently in the Senate.

Sans Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Joe Manchin of West Virginia all have Woodcock has been critical of.

Sen. Manchin in particular may prove to be a deterrent, as he has shown a willingness to break across party lines.

Senators from all states that have struggled because of America’s opioid epidemic, the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, led by Woodcock, places some of the blame for the problem.

Dr. Joshua Scharfstein (pictured) was considered for the role of FDA commissioner under Obama in 2008, although he missed the role after facing some internal opposition.

Dr. Joshua Scharfstein (pictured) was considered for the role of FDA commissioner under Obama in 2008, although he missed the role after facing some internal opposition.

Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath is another former Obama official being considered for the role.  She is currently the President and CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization

Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath is another former Obama official being considered for the role. She is currently the President and CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization

Dr. Gleicher is the President and CEO of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

POLITICO pointed out that its nomination may also face some hurdles as it has industry ties that require it to divest some of its holdings.

Dr. Sharfstein is an Obama-era FDA official who currently serves as vice dean for public health practice at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland.

He was reportedly a finalist for the agency’s commissioner under Obama when Biden was vice president, but was eventually named the principal deputy commissioner…

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