Biden Taps Former FDA Chief Califf to Again Lead Agency

Former U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf is expected to return to the regulatory agency after President Joe Biden nominated the cardiologist for the position. According to the Washington Post, if confirmed by the Senate, Califf would take over an agency poised to make key decisions on the vaping industry, as well as coronavirus vaccines and treatments while facing criticism of recent controversial drug approvals and widespread burnout due to the ongoing pandemic.

Robert Califf/ Credit: Duke University

Califf previously served as commissioner for nearly a year in Obama’s second administration after an overwhelming vote in his favor. The White House has not finalized its decision, and the people with knowledge cautioned the situation could still change. But nine months into its search for a permanent FDA chief, Califf is now viewed as the leading candidate for the job.

Despite the agency’s prominent role in the nation’s coronavirus response, it has been without a permanent leader since Biden took office in January. Califf would replace acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock, the agency’s longtime drug chief, who has helmed the agency for nine months. Califf returned to cardiology after his tenure at FDA and currently works for the Duke Clinical Research Institute, but also took a position leading health policy at Google’s parent company Alphabet in 2019.

While he garnered support from many senators in his 2016 confirmation process, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) voiced concerns about his industry ties and said he could oppose the vote. Califf at the time had written papers with pharmaceutical industry executives and consulted for drug and device makers.