Obama Picks Duke Physician to Head FDA

President Obama will nominate Robert Califf to be the next commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, the White House announced Tuesday.

Califf has served as the agency’s deputy commissioner for medical products and tobacco since January. In that role, he oversees the agency’s divisions responsible for tobacco, drugs, medical devices and biological treatments, areas where the FDA is currently drafting new policies and regulations.

Califf was seen as a likely choice to succeed Margaret Hamburg, who stepped down from the commissioner’s post in March. Stephen Ostroff has served as acting commissioner since Hamburg’s departure. […]

Califf previously was a top official at Duke University’s School of Medicine. During a 30-year career at Duke, he was in charge of the Translational Medicine Institute, whose goal is to speed up the development, testing and approval of drugs and devices. […]

But during his years at Duke, Califf developed close ties to players in the pharmaceutical industry. Some believe these relationships will be an asset for someone who needs industry buy-in for his agency’s policies. If Califf is confirmed, Pitts said, it “means the FDA can be both the regulator of industry and its colleague in innovation.”

But others find those ties problematic.

“You have someone who works at a research institute that was funded heavily by industry,” said Diana Zuckerman, president of the nonprofit National Center for Health Research. “When you develop those kind of relationships, you tend to be biased in favor of their point of view.”

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