In March 2019, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, surprised the healthcare community by announcing his resignation, set to take effect in June 2019. With 18 months still remaining in the commissioner’s term, speculation arose throughout the healthcare advocacy community as to who might fill the position. Not long after Gottlieb’s announcement, the Trump administration named National Cancer Institute (NCI) Director Ned Sharpless, MD, as the acting commissioner of the FDA.

Sharpless was appointed to the NCI directorship in October 2017 and has been a tireless advocate for National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding in research and access for patient-centered care. Through initiatives that expanded clinical trials and upgrades to the NIH’s campus structure, Sharpless has made a tremendous impact in the oncology field.

“Sharpless’s deep scientific background and expertise will make him a strong leader for FDA,” Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. “There will be no letup 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.”

Sharpless’s medical, healthcare policy, and administrative backgrounds will serve him well in his new role at the FDA until such a time that the senate approves a new candidate for the commissioner role.

HHS Secretary Azar also provided support for outgoing Commissioner Gottlieb.

“All of us at HHS are proud of the remarkable work Commissioner Gottlieb has done at the FDA. He has been an exemplary public health leader, aggressive advocate for American patients, and passionate promoter of innovation,” Azar said. “I will personally miss working with Scott on the important goals we share, and I know that is true for so many other members of the HHS family.”