Cancer doctor Sharpless to take reins at FDA next month
The director of the US National Cancer Institute, Norman “Ned” Sharpless has been announced as the acting FDA commissioner, following the shock resignation of incumbent Scott Gottlieb.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar made the announcement in a hearing before a house committee yesterday.
Azar said that Sharpless will take over at the FDA when Gottlieb steps down early next month, after barely two years in charge of the regulator.
While Sharpless is acting up as FDA commissioner, deputy director Douglas Lowy will take charge of the NCI, which is the US government’s principal agency for cancer research and training.
Sharpless will act up as commissioner while Azar’s department searches for a permanent successor to Gottlieb, who has decided to step down to spend more time with his family.
Azar said that the search for the new commissioner will be completed “as quickly as possible”, and praised Gottlieb’s “incredibly successful tenure” at the FDA.
Gottlieb was quick to offer his support to his successor, who was appointed to his role at the NCI by Trump.
Sharpless responded with a string of tweets thanking his colleagues for their support and encouragement during his time at NCI.
(1/3) Change is good, but bittersweet. It is difficult for me to say goodbye to @theNCI family as I head to @FDA to serve as acting commissioner. Rest assured that our shared goals for patients and the public’s health will translate into my new duties.
— Ned Sharpless, MD (@NCIDirector) March 12, 2019
He also retweeted a post from Gottlieb highlighting the FDA’s crackdown on the sale of flavoured e-cigarettes to teenagers – suggesting that this initiative will be a priority while he is at the helm of the regulator.
The NCI has worked closely with the FDA to fund research into e-cigarette use as a tool to help adults quit smoking traditional cigarettes.
Before joining the NCI, Sharpless was director of the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
After receiving a medical degree from the UNC School of Medicine, Sharpless did a haematology and oncology fellowship at Dana-Farber/Partners CancerCare, a collaboration of hospitals affiliated with Harvard Medical School.
He also co-founded GI Therapeutics, a pharma company that develops cancer treatments for lung and breast cancers.
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