FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said this week he will be stepping away from his position in one month, leaving one major question – who will take replace him?
While it’s impossible to know who will be appointed, a number of candidates stand out for the role, while others seem less likely but still viable candidates to head the agency.
Topping the list of likely candidates is former Flatiron Health chief medical officer and current principal deputy commissioner Amy Abernethy, who stands as a likely interim leader, according to a report from STAT News.
Abernethy reportedly spent time at Duke with former FDA Commissioner Robert Califf acting as a mentor, according to the report, but her lack of tenure at the FDA – she joined in December – could reduce the likelihood she’ll win an appointment at the head of the federal watchdog.
Current National Cancer Institute director Ned Sharpless, who co-founded G1 Therapeutics and previously ran the University of North Carolina’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, could be a likely pick for the position, according to STAT. Sharpless co-founded two clinical-stage biotechs and was an enthusiastic supporter of Gottlieb’s efforts related to tobacco and e-cigarettes.
Current Dept. of Health and Human Services assistant secretary for health Bret Giroir’s experience in the government, academia and the industry position him as a possible candidate for the job, according to STAT. He has led the majority of the HHS’s opioid work under Trump, and has held positions as a private physician, professor and biotech startup CEO.
Though less likely, current FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research head Janet Woodcock has been with the agency since 1986 and is often floated as a candidate to head the federal watchdog, according to the report. Despite her experience, though, commissioners are political appointees and have not previously been recruited from the pool of FDA career staff.
Former FDA commissioner and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services head Mark McClellan could also stand out as a pick to run the agency, according to STAT News, but whether or not he’d return to a role he already had after approximately 20 years is questionable.
Trump-appointed surgeon general Jerome Adams could also be picked for the role, as he is a popular figure in public health circles for the administration, according to the report. But his nomination seems unlikely as he seems to enjoy his current position and the audience it grants him.
At the bottom of the list are former HHS principal associate deputy secretary and staunch libertarian Jim O’Neill and former diagnostics startup CEO Joe Gulfo, both of whom were listed as likely candidates in early 2017 before Gottlieb took the office.