Biden picks former FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf to run the agency

Health, Fitness & Food

Dr. Robert Califf testifies during his nomination hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee November 17, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee | Getty Images

President Joe Biden is expected to pick Robert Califf to serve as the chief of the Food and Drug Administration, NBC News reported Friday, citing people familiar with the selection process.

The FDA, currently overseen by acting commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock, has been without a permanent chief since Biden took office in January. The White House reportedly ruled out Woodcock after she faced opposition from some members of Congress over her handling of opioids while at the agency.

Califf, a cardiologist who works at the Duke University School of Medicine, was briefly the agency’s commissioner under the Obama administration beginning in 2016. He also served as deputy commissioner of the agency’s medical products and tobacco office.

The new selection is expected imminently because Woodcock cannot legally stay on as the acting head past Nov. 15 without a nominee to hold the position permanently.

Biden’s expected nomination comes amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed at least 759,678 Americans, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The FDA has helped bring life-saving treatments to the market and authorized the use of Covid vaccines, which have shown to be highly effective, especially against severe disease, hospitalization and death.

More than 194 million Americans are fully vaccinated against Covid, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agency has recently come under harsh criticism, though, over its decision to approve Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug, Aduhelm.

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