Meet new FDA chief Dr. Robert Califf: 5 things to know

The Senate has confirmed Robert Califf, MD, as the next FDA commissioner.  

The Senate narrowly confirmed Dr. Califf's nomination by a 50-46 vote Feb. 15, giving the agency its first permanent leader in more than a year, according to The New York Times.

Since January 2021, the FDA has been led by acting commissioner Janet Woodcock, MD. In a Feb. 15 statement, Dr. Woodcock said she will stay on as principal deputy commissioner, the agency's second-in-command. 

Five things to know about Dr. Califf:

1. Dr. Califf is a cardiologist and researcher who has worked extensively at Durham, N.C.-based Duke University, where he served as a professor of medicine and founding director of the Duke Clinical Research Institute.  

2. The cardiologist briefly led the FDA in 2016, confirmed to the role with a 89-4 Senate vote. Dr. Califf left the agency in 2017 at the start of former President Donald Trump's administration, later becoming a senior adviser for research organization Verily Life Sciences, according to The Washington Post.

3. President Joe Biden's administration nominated Dr. Califf in November. His confirmation appeared uncertain as opponents voiced concerns about how he would respond to the opioid epidemic and abortion drug rules.  

4. He takes the lead of an agency stretched thin by demands for new COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and tests. Other challenges include controversy over the FDA's approval of Aduhelm, a drug used to treat Alzheimer's, and bids from e-cigarette companies, such as Juul, to stay on the market.

5. Dr. Califf is set to be sworn in later this week. 


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