The Trump administration is apparently down to three final candidates for the top FDA job as a deadline for nomination looms. Acting commissioner Ned Sharpless is contending with Stephen Hahn, chief of radiation oncology at MD Anderson, and Harvard dermatology professor Alexa Boer Kimball, according to reports.
Conspicuously absent from the group is Brett Giroir, the controversial assistant secretary of HHS who reportedly enjoyed the favor of Alex Azar, his boss at the department. Azar ended up not recommending him to the White House for fear of a difficult Senate confirmation, sources told BioCentury.
First reported by the Wall Street Journal and later confirmed by BioCentury, news about the list broke on the same day former FDA leaders and patient advocacy nonprofits came out with ringing endorsement of Sharpless. Mark McClellan, Andrew von Eschenbach, Robert Califf and Margaret Hamburg signed a letter voicing support for Sharpless — who was director of the National Cancer Institute — as did dozens of groups including Friends of Cancer Research, the National Brain Tumor Society and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Trump must make a decision about the commissioner of food and drugs by November 1, 210 days after Scott Gottlieb made an abrupt exit in the middle of a widely admired tenure.
Lending credence to the common perception that Sharpless was his chosen successor, Gottlieb offered his own recommendation in a tweet that is “pinned” to the top of his Twitter profile today.
As early as June the WSJ has suggested that Kimball, chief executive of the Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, was in the running alongside an unnamed doctor at MD Anderson. Hahn was not identified until late Wednesday but has emerged as a leading candidate, the paper reported citing people familiar with the matter.