HHS chief names Ned Sharpless as acting FDA commissioner, when Gottlieb departs

March 12, 2019

Health Secretary Alex Azar on Tuesday said the director of the National Cancer Institute, Ned Sharpless, will serve as acting FDA commissioner when Scott Gottlieb steps down from the role in early April.

Mr. Azar announced the move to the Energy and Commerce Committee as part of testimony on President Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget.

The secretary said Dr. Gottlieb enjoyed an “incredibly successful tenure” at the Food and Drug Administration before deciding to step aside, citing the strains of commuting from Connecticut, where his family still lives.

Dr. Gottlieb oversaw efforts to combat opioids addiction and speed the release of cheaper generic drugs, and spearheaded a contentious push to reduce vaping among teens through a crackdown on how flavored e-cigarettes are sold.

“There will be no let-up in the agency’s focus, from ongoing efforts on drug approvals and combating the opioid crisis to modernizing food safety and addressing the rapid rise in youth use of e-cigarettes,” Mr. Azar said in a statement.

Mr. Azar said Douglas Lowey, the deputy director of the National Cancer Institute, will serve as acting director of the institute when Dr. Sharpless departs for the FDA.

Before leading the NCI, Dr. Sharpless served on the medical faculty at Harvard and the University of North Carolina. He’s authored more than 150 scientific papers and reviews and holds 10 patents as an inventor, according to his government biography.