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Biden nominates former Commissioner Robert Califf to again lead FDA

Dr. Robert Califf in 2016. President Biden is nominating Califf to again lead the FDA
Andrew Harnik
Dr. Robert Califf in 2016. President Biden is nominating Califf to again lead the FDA

President Biden announced Friday he is nominating Dr. Robert Califf to head the Food and Drug Administration.

Califf, 70, led the agency in 2016-2017, in the last year of the Obama administration. In a statement, the White House called Califf "an internationally recognized expert in clinical trial research, health disparities, healthcare quality, and cardiovascular medicine."

The agency has been without a permanent leader, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, since Biden took office in January.

Biden praised the acting commissioner, Dr. Janet Woodcock, for "an incredible job leading the agency during what has been a busy and challenging time."

The White House noted that Califf won Senate confirmation the last time, 89-4, with "broad bipartisan support."

Califf has in the past been a consultant to the pharmaceutical industry. He is currently a professor at the Duke University School of Medicine and is head of clinical policy at Verily Life Sciences, which conducts life sciences research.

At least one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, says he will oppose Califf, as he did in 2016, citing the opioid crisis in his state. Manchin said Califf's "significant ties to the pharmaceutical industry take us backwards not forward," and called the nomination "an insult to the many families and individuals who have had their lives changed forever as a result of addiction."

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NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.
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