Biden closes in on pick to lead Food and Drug Administration

Asked whether he had an FDA nominee, President Joe Biden told reporters on Tuesday that “We’ll be talking about that in a little bit.”

A White House official declined to specify a timeline for the nomination, and said that “nothing is final until we make an announcement.”

“We have strong acting leadership in place that is playing an important role in our COVID-19 response and beyond, and look forward to sharing a nominee with the requisite expertise and leadership for this job,” the official said.

The FDA has been run by acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock since Biden took office in January, but Woodcock’s days are numbered. By law she can only stay as the agency’s temporary chief until mid-November.

The next FDA commissioner will help shepherd the country to the eventual end to the Covid-19 pandemic, overseeing the scientists vetting vaccines, drugs and tests to protect against, treat and identify the disease. Whoever takes the job will inherit a workforce burned out from the sheer workload imposed by the Covid-19 response and attempts by some Trump administration officials to short-circuit the agency’s regulatory processes.

Among the names being floated is that of Laurie Glimcher, the president and CEO of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. If confirmed by the Senate she would be the second consecutive executive of a major cancer center to lead the agency, after Trump’s last commissioner Stephen Hahn. But her nomination could be complicated by industry ties; she is on the board of several companies and would need to divest holdings.

Glimcher surfaced as a potential FDA nomnee months ago and she considered the job at the time, said one person familiar with the matter.

Her son, Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), last year won the general election for Rep. Joe Kennedy’s vacated seat.

But the administration also has not ruled out longtime drug chief Woodcock. While she had supporters in and outside the administration, some senators — including West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin — have said they would oppose her nomination because of the agency’s track record of opioid approvals during her tenure.

Other names floated for the position include Joshua Sharfstein, an Obama-era FDA official, and Michelle McMurry-Heath, the president and CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization.

Erin Banco contributed to this report.

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