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Robert Califf confirmed as US FDA commissioner

by Andrea Widener
February 16, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 7


Robert Califf dressed in a suit and tie.
Credit: US Food and Drug Administration
Robert Califf

In a narrow 50–46 vote, Duke University cardiologist Robert Califf was confirmed by the US Senate as the next US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner on Feb. 15. Several prominent Democrats voted against Califf while several Republicans supported him, resulting in the historically close vote. Califf was controversial among Democrats because of his ties to the pharmaceutical industry—he previously worked at Verily Life Sciences, which is owned by Google’s parent company, and served as a consultant for other drug companies. The FDA has been without a permanent leader since January 2021, at a time when COVID-19 has brought the agency’s day-to-day operations under intense public scrutiny. Califf was nominated by President Joe Biden in November 2021. “Dr. Califf will bring tremendous scientific expertise and hands-on experience to the FDA,” Mary Woolley, president of the advocacy group Research!America, says in a statement. “It’s critical for the FDA to have a Senate-confirmed leader to synthesize the lessons learned from COVID-19, deploy the benefits of real-world evidence, and in a myriad of other ways, endeavor to keep pace with rapidly evolving science.”


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