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Biden nominates Dr. Robert Califf as FDA commissioner

The cardiologist warned of a "tsunami" of chronic disease after the pandemic.

November 12, 2021, 11:58 AM

After months of public anticipation, President Joe Biden on Friday nominated Dr. Robert Califf to lead the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Califf is a prominent cardiologist who warned of a "tsunami" of chronic disease in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Biden hailed him "one of the most experienced clinical trialists in the country."

"I am confident Dr. Califf will ensure that the FDA continues its science and data drive decision-making. Dr. Califf had strong bipartisan support in the Senate in 2016, and I urge the Senate to swiftly confirm Dr. Califf so he can continue the important work being done at this critical moment," Biden said in a statement announcing the pick.

If he is confirmed by the Senate, it would be Califf's second tour as FDA chief after having served during the Obama administration.

PHOTO: Dr. Robert Califf awaits the start of a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Nov. 17, 2015, in Washington, DC.
Dr. Robert Califf awaits the start of a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Nov. 17, 2015, in Washington, DC.
Win Mcnamee/Getty Images, FILE

He previously led the agency in former President Barack Obama's last year in office, after being confirmed in an 89-4 vote in the Senate. Before that, he served as deputy commissioner of the FDA's Office of Medical Products and Tobacco.

Califf's nomination was first reported by Politico.

The FDA has been without a Senate-confirmed administrator since Biden took office. Instead, Dr. Janet Woodcock served as the agency's acting administrator.

While Woodcock is a longtime FDA senior official, she was widely considered an unacceptable candidate because of her regulatory oversight role during the opioid crisis.

Califf also is known for founding the Duke University Clinical Research Institute, a global academic clinical research organization. Recently, he has been working for Google's parent company, Alphabet, on health policy. He's also a professor of medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine, where he previously served as Vice Chancellor, and works as head of clinical policy at Verily Life Sciences, a research organization.

PHOTO: A sign for the Food And Drug Administration is seen outside of the headquarters, July 20, 2020, in White Oak, Md.
A sign for the Food And Drug Administration is seen outside of the headquarters, July 20, 2020, in White Oak, Md.
Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images, FILE

Earlier this year, Califf warned of an upcoming influx of chronic disease, especially heart disease, in an opinion article published in the medical journal Circulation.

"Once the acute phase of this crisis is past, we will face an enormous wave of death and disability due to common chronic diseases (CCDs), with cardiometabolic diseases at the crest," he wrote.

He said universal health care coverage and low-cost generic medications could "substantially reduce death and disability."

ABC News' Justin Gomez contributed to this report.

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