Acting FDA Commissioner Named; Industry Feeling Positive

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Washington, D.C.—Dr. Norman E. Sharpless, director of the National Cancer Institute, will serve as acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, according to the New York Times, which cited an announcement by Alex M. Azar III, the secretary of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Sharpless has been director of the cancer center, part of the National Institutes of Health, since October 2017. He is also chief of the aging biology and cancer section in the National Institute on Aging’s Laboratory of Genetics and Genomics.

The Times quoted a statement from Azar: “Dr. Sharpless’ deep scientific background and expertise will make him a strong leader for FDA. There will be no let up in the agency’s focus, from ongoing efforts on drug approvals and combating the opiod crisis to modernizing food safety and addressing the rapid rise in youth use of e-cigarettes.”

Bloomberg noted that Dr. Sharpless was previously the director of the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. He co-founded the pharmaceutical company G1 Therapeutics Inc., which is developing cancer treatments for certain lung and breast cancers.

Steve Mister, President and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), told WholeFoods that it’s hard to draw conclusions about the future. Regarding Dr. Sharpless’s pharmaceutical past, he said: “Even large pharmaceutical companies recognize the value of dietary supplements—they’ve started playing in our space. There’s no real separation of the two anymore, so that’s not a concern we have.”

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, current commissioner of the FDA, said in a tweet: “I’m delighted by the announcement from @SecAzar that @NCIDirector will serve as acting commissioner of #FDA. Ned is a friend to FDA, a great public health champion, a dedicated physician, and will be warmly welcomed into his new role. FDA will benefit greatly from his leadership.”

Mister noted that Dr. Gottlieb’s support is a good sign that Dr. Sharpless will continue to push in the same direction regarding supplements and food regulation.

Karen Howard, CEO of Organic & Natural Health, issued a statement to Association members titiled “Who is Ned Sharpless, M.D.?” After reviewing his work experience, she cautioned against making cancer claims and concluded, “Short of that, I predict business as usual at the FDA.”

“We’re pleased to see the FDA acting so quickly,” Mister said, “And we’re looking forward to working with Dr. Sharpless and the future commissioner.”

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