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NCI Director Norman Sharpless, M.D., Named Acting FDA Commissioner


Sharpless brings an extensive medical background and focus on public health to the agency.

National Cancer Institute (NCI) director Norman Sharpless, M.D., will serve as acting commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after current FDA chief Scott Gottlieb, M.D., steps down in early April, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar announced today.

“Dr. Sharpless’ deep scientific background and expertise will make him a strong leader for FDA,” Azar said in a statement at a U.S. House of

Norman Sharpless, M.D.      Credit: National Institutes of Health

Norman Sharpless, M.D. Credit: National Institutes of Health

Representatives hearing today. “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 of e-cigarettes.”

Sharpless has been director of the NCI since 2017 and has served as the director of the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

During his tenure at the NCI, Sharpless pushed for increased data sharing, analysis and aggregation to develop new understanding and treatments for cancer. Sharpless also cut the institute’s operating budget by 5 percent to free up funds for research grants. He focused on the careers of young investigators by adding two years to their initial five-year research grants.

Most recently, Sharpless was shaping a plan to spend $50 million in 2020 to share data on pediatric cancer patients, as part of President Donald Trump’s $500 million childhood cancer plan.

He pursued his medical degree from the UNC School of Medicine and completed his internal medicine residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

“His dynamic style, deep scientific knowledge and passion for helping patients make him an ideal next commissioner during this pivotal time for science and public health,” said Ellen Segal, chair of the advocacy group Friends of Cancer Research.

The announcement comes a week after Gottlieb resigned as FDA Commissioner.

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