Washington: President Barack Obama has nominated the Food and Drug Administration's second-highest ranking official, Dr Robert Califf, to lead the agency, which regulates consumer products ranging from medications to seafood to cigarettes.
The White House made the announcement late yesterday in a statement naming officials nominated for various federal posts.
If confirmed by the Senate, Califf will take the reins at a critical juncture for the agency, which is under pressure from Republicans in Congress to streamline regulations for medical products.
Califf, 63, joined the FDA as deputy commissioner in March after more than 30 years as a prominent cardiologist and medical researcher at Duke University. His nomination to head the agency was widely anticipated after former commissioner Dr Margaret Hamburg announced she would step down just days after appointing Califf to the role of deputy commissioner. He currently oversees the FDA's centres for drugs, devices and tobacco products.
Although he has spent most of his career in academia, Califf is deeply versed in FDA issues, especially the clinical testing of drugs and medical devices. He previously served on expert committees that advise the FDA and was considered for the commissioner's job at least twice before once under President George W Bush and once earlier in the Obama administration.
Currently the FDA's chief scientist, Dr Stephen Ostroff, is serving as acting head of the agency.
The FDA's commissioner is subject to pressure from an array of outside interests, including multinational corporations, politicians, consumer advocates and medical professionals. Most modern FDA commissioners have stayed on the job for less than three years.
As head of the FDA, Califf would inherit a raft of projects and potential challenges, including unfinished tobacco regulations, ongoing food safety and labelling reforms and proposals from Republican lawmakers focused on streamlining drug reviews.