Steven Solomon, director of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine, plans to retire at the end of this year after 32 years at the agency, FDA Administrator Robert Califf said in an email Wednesday to agency colleagues.

Solomon joined the agency as a veterinary medical officer in the division of surveillance and compliance and later moved to the Office of Regulatory Affairs, where he steadily progressed through various policy and leadership positions, ultimately becoming deputy associate commissioner for regulatory affairs in 2013, Califf said. Califf appointed him to his current position as CVM director in 2017.

 “In this role, Steve has brought strong and steady leadership, accountability and innovation to the Center. The responsibilities of CVM are enormous—from regulating animal drugs to ensuring the meat, milk and eggs from food-producing animals treated with an animal drug are safe for people to eat to animal food, medical devices and certain biologics. As Steve likes to say, CVM is the FDA for animals,” Califf siad.

While at CVM, Solomon provided leadership on many critical issues, including most recently the internal evaluation of the agency’s response to the infant formula crisis, Califf said. 

“He has been on the forefront of innovative science, approving the first monoclonal antibody for animal use, and the first intentional genomic alteration in an animal for both food and potential therapeutic uses. He has worked tirelessly to expand the availability of medications for all species, and to foster antimicrobial stewardship across the animal population,” Califf continued.

Under the direction of Solomon, CVM has played an increasingly important role in the FDA’s One Health initiative, the cross-agency effort focused on developing comprehensive solutions to critical public health issues that include human medicine, veterinary medicine, and environmental stewardship, building on the increasing connections in discovering between the health of people, animals and the environment, Califf said.

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Solomon’s leadership style “incorporates a heavy dose of level-headedness and compassion,” Califf said, adding that Solomon’s greatest legacy may be the time spent building the culture of CVM to “reflect the values of diversity, equity and inclusion, and the commitment to both human and animal health."

Califf said the agency will begin a formal and expansive national search for Solomon’s replacement. Solomon has agreed to remain at the FDA in his current position until the end of the year. Tracey Forfa, who has been deputy director at CVM since 2008, will become acting director when Solomon retires. 

CVM's responsibilities include regulation of animal biotechnology.

Industry leaders praised Solomon’s tenure at CVM.

American Feed Industry Association President and CEO Constance Cullman said Solomon has been an “intentional leader,” ushering CVM through many important transitions important to the production of animal food, including implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act at all facilities and giving the animal food ingredient review process the attention it rightly deserves.

“Not only has he been transparent about his goals for the agency, he has also challenged our industry to tackle ongoing food safety issues so we can continue developing safer food for all,” Cullman said. “We thank him for his committed leadership to the U.S. animal food sector throughout his career.” Cullman added AFIA looks forward to working with the agency during this transition.

Dave Fairfield, the National Grain and Feed Association's senior vice president of feed, said Solomon’s leadership style “fostered a frequent and open dialogue with stakeholders to discuss animal and public health issues and advance reasonable regulatory approaches to ensure the safe supply and use of animal food products.”