Biden Announces FDA Commissioner Nominee
Dr. Robert Califf previously led the agency for a brief stint.
President Biden announced his intent on Friday to nominate a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration to lead the agency once again.
Pressure has been building for months on the president to nominate a permanent FDA leader as the government continues its pandemic response. Dr. Robert Califf, the intended nominee, is currently a professor of medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine.
“Dr. Robert Califf is one of the most experienced clinical trialists in the country and 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,” said President Biden in a press release. “As the FDA considers many consequential decisions around vaccine approvals and more, it is mission critical that we have a steady, independent hand to guide the FDA.”
Califf “brings nearly four decades of experience as a doctor, researcher, leader, and public servant, including previous service as FDA commissioner from 2016-2017, for which he was confirmed by the Senate 89-4 with broad bipartisan support,” the president continued.
Dr. Janet Woodcock has been serving as acting commissioner since Biden came into office.
“She has done an incredible job leading the agency during what has been a busy and challenging time,” Biden said. “Both she and the FDA career staff have worked hard and followed the science to ensure the American public can trust the decisions being made by the FDA.”
Agencies under the 1998 Federal Vacancies Reform Act “have 300 days at the start of a new administration to use acting officials in vacant Senate confirmed positions,” Anne Joseph O’Connell, law professor at Stanford University and expert in the federal bureaucracy, recently told Government Executive. One option is that the acting officials can continue serving if there is a pending nomination. “With [a] pending nomination, you can have an acting official in a vacant Senate-confirmed position for over two years,” she said.
Woodcock said in a tweet late afternoon on Friday she will continue to serve in her role during Califf’s confirmation process.
Update: This article has been updated with Dr. Woodcock's tweet.