Senate panel advances Dr. Robert Califf as FDA head

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A Senate committee on Jan. 13 advanced the nomination of Robert Califf, MD, as the next permanent head of the FDA, according to The New York Times.

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions voted 13-8 to advance the nomination to the full Senate. 

Dr. Califf was nominated in November 2021 by President Joe Biden. The cardiologist and professor at the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C., was FDA commissioner from 2016-17, during President Barack Obama's administration.

After leaving the FDA, Dr. Califf joined Google parent company Alphabet in 2017 as an adviser before moving up the organization's ranks as head of strategy and policy for Alphabet's Verily Life Sciences and Google Health divisions by November 2019.

Dr. Califf also previously served as deputy commissioner of the FDA's Office of Medical Products and Tobacco.

Former FDA commissioners support Dr. Califf's nomination, saying he "has the experience to be effective from Day One." However, some Democrats oppose it, citing Dr. Califf's financial ties to drug companies and the FDA's handling of the opioid crisis, the Times reported. 

A date for the Senate's vote on confirmation had not been scheduled as of Jan. 13, according to the newspaper. 

If confirmed by the full Senate, Dr. Califf would be the first permanent FDA leader under President Biden. Janet Woodcock, MD, has been serving as acting head of the agency.

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