President Joe Biden has chosen Robert Califf to lead the Food and Drug Administration, which would give the cardiologist and professor a second stint at the agency's helm.
In a statement Friday, Biden called Califf “one of the most experienced clinical trialists in the country” and said he “has the experience and expertise to lead the Food and Drug Administration during a critical time in our nation’s fight to put an end to the coronavirus pandemic.”
“I am confident Dr. Califf will ensure that the FDA continues its science and data drive decision-making,” Biden added. “Dr. Califf had strong bipartisan support in the Senate in 2016, and I urge the Senate to swiftly confirm Dr. Califf so he can continue the important work being done at this critical moment.”
Califf was FDA commissioner from February 2016 to the end of President Barack Obama's presidency in January 2017 after the resignation of Margaret Hamburg. He was previously FDA’s deputy commissioner for medical products and tobacco for a year.
In Friday's announcement, the White House noted that the Senate confirmed Califf, 89-4, in 2016 with “broad bipartisan support.”
Before his time at FDA, Califf worked at the Duke University medical school, where he was a cardiology professor as well as the vice chancellor for clinical and transitional research.
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If confirmed, Califf would be the first Senate-confirmed head of the FDA under the Biden administration as the agency seeks to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic through the approval of various vaccines, boosters and treatments.
The agency has authority over a host of issues critical to ag and food policy, including the regulation of most foods other than meat and poultry. FDA also regulates animal feed and drugs, and there is an ongoing debate with the Agriculture Department over the future oversight over gene editing in animals.
The Trump administration released a memorandum of understanding in its last days in office that aimed to split the regulatory authority between USDA and FDA. The memo was signed by HHS leadership but lacked the backing of the FDA, then-Commissioner Stephen Hahn noted.
The agency is also set to have joint oversight of the emerging cultured meat market with USDA; FDA will oversee the collection and growth of the cells used to produce the meat and USDA will regulate the production and labeling of the meat.