National Cancer Institute director Ned Sharpless to become acting FDA head

Ned Sharpless, the current director of the US National Cancer Institute (NCI), will assume the position of acting chief of the FDA when Scott Gottlieb steps down next month. Gottlieb, who recently tendered his resignation from the role, is said to have recommended Sharpless for the job.  

Commenting on the news, Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary Alex Azar said "Sharpless' deep scientific background and expertise will make him a strong leader for FDA." Azar added "there will be no let-up in the agency's focus, from ongoing efforts on drug approvals and combating the opioid crisis."

Prior to joining the NCI, Sharpless served as the director of the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Sharpless additionally co-founded G1 Therapeutics, which focuses on developing treatments for breast and lung cancers as well as HealthSpan Diagnostics.

"It will be an honour to advance the FDA's critical public health mission and build on its progress toward the priorities laid out by President Trump, Secretary Azar, and Commissioner Gottlieb alongside the leadership and staff of the agency," Sharpless remarked.  

Meanwhile, Gottlieb said "Sharpless is a valued colleague to FDA and is deeply committed to public health," adding "under his skilled leadership, I'm confident the transition will be seamless."   

Azar indicated that the process of searching for a permanent FDA commissioner is under way, adding that Douglas Lowy, who currently serves as deputy director of NCI, will serve as the institute's acting director.  

Other names that had been put forward as possible successors to Gottlieb included Brett Giroir, assistant secretary at the HHS, as well as Amy Abernethy, the current deputy commissioner at the FDA. However, an FDA spokeswoman previously indicated that Abernethy would not assume the role.

For related analysis, read ViewPoints: Gottlieb begins his long goodbye.

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