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Janet Woodcock named acting commissioner of the FDA

President Biden is set to formally nominate a commissioner soon

Janet Woodcock (pictured above), director of the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, has been named acting commissioner of the regulatory body.

Woodcock takes over the position from Stephen Hahn, who was appointed to the role in December 2019.

Woodcock took over the role of FDA commissioner from Hahn on 20 January, the same day that President Biden was inaugurated, and Woodcock will serve in the role until a the next FDA commissioner is nominated and confirmed.

Woodcock has served as the director of the Centre for Drug Evaluation and Research since 2007, and also worked in the same role between 1994 and 2005.

Most recently, she has worked as part of the US government’s Operation Warp Speed, as part of the efforts to combat COVID-19.

Woodcock is reported to be on the short list of those in the running to be appointed as the next FDA commissioner, but she is not the only name on the list. Joshua Sharfstein, who previously served as FDA principal deputy commissioner from 2009 to 2011, is also reported to be on the short list. Sharfstein is currently vice dean for public health practice and community engagement at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

In a note to FDA staff, acting commissioner Woodcock wrote: “I commit to you to do everything I can to keep FDA employees safe and productive, and to support the regulatory programmes we are entrusted with.”

“I also plan to support and promote our commitment to diversity and inclusion, that is such a strength within the agency,” she added.

During his time as FDA commissioner, Hahn co-ordinated the FDA’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic during what was a particularly turbulent time for the agency.

Under his leadership, the FDA was criticised by ex-President Trump over the agency’s timeline for approving COVID-19 vaccines.

In December 2020, Axios reported that Hahn had been called to the White House to discuss the FDA’s timings for reviewing Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, after the jab was approved in the UK.

"We want to move quickly because this is a national emergency, but we will make sure that our scientists take the time they need to make an appropriate decision. It's our job to get this right and make the correct decision regarding vaccine safety and efficacy,” Hahn said in defence of the FDA’s timings.

President Biden signed ten executive orders on his first full day in office relating to the control and fight against COVID-19.

They include new mandates on mask wearing, testing data and treatments and plans to rapidly scale-up vaccinations – setting a goal of administering 100 million jabs in 100 days.

President Biden also began the process of reversing Trump's controversial decision to withdraw the US from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Article by
Lucy Parsons

22nd January 2021

From: Healthcare

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