Biden Announces Plan to Nominate Robert Califf as FDA Commissioner
Three days before the clock was set to run out on the legality of Janet Woodcock serving as acting commissioner of the FDA, President Biden has announced that he will nominate Robert Califf to take a second turn at occupying the top spot at the agency.
Califf — a cardiologist, veteran of clinical research and founder of the Duke Clinical Research Institute — was FDA commissioner from 2016 to 2017, the final year of Barack Obama’s presidency. Since November 2019, he has headed clinical strategy and policy for Alphabet’s Google Health and Verily healthcare subsidiaries.
In a statement on Friday, Biden called Califf one of the most experienced clinical trialists in the country “who has the experience and expertise to lead the FDA during a critical time in our nation’s fight to put an end to the coronavirus pandemic.”
According to federal law, the FDA job must be filled with a permanent occupant by Nov. 15. But the White House said Friday that Woodcock can continue in the position until a Senate confirmation vote is held on Califf.
Five years ago, Califf sailed through the Senate, confirmed by an 89-4 vote. This time around, Califf has opposition from Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who also opposed him the first time.
During Califf’s 2016 nomination process, Sens. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Manchin hit Califf hard over his longstanding relationship with the pharmaceutical industry.
Before Biden had even made his announcement Friday, consumer advocacy group Public Citizen came out against Califf, calling him “Biden’s recycled FDA commissioner pick.”
“Califf must not be allowed to again pass through the revolving door between the FDA and regulated industries,” said Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, in a statement. “Califf was a poor choice for FDA commissioner when he was nominated by Obama in 2015 and he remains a poor choice today.”