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AACR Applauds Nomination of Robert Califf, MD, as FDA Commissioner

AACR expresses appreciation to Janet Woodcock, MD, for her excellent stewardship as FDA’s Acting Commissioner for the past 10 months

PHILADELPHIA — The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), which consists of more than 49,000 laboratory, translational, and clinical researchers; other health care professionals; population scientists; and patient advocates, strongly supports President Biden’s decision to appoint Robert Califf, MD, as Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“While the scientific opportunities that exist today to develop more effective cancer treatments have never been greater, we also recognize that the science is increasingly complex, especially when factoring in the rapidly expanding effectiveness of molecularly targeted therapies and combination therapies,” said David A. Tuveson, MD, PhD, FAACR, President of the AACR and Director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Cancer Center. “Therefore, this extraordinary time of promise requires an experienced and visionary leader at the FDA to ensure that the necessary regulatory framework is in place to approve innovative therapies that are both safe and effective, and Dr. Califf is the right person for this extremely important position. We encourage members of the Senate to move expeditiously to confirm his appointment.”

Califf, a renowned cardiologist, is a leading expert on clinical trials. He served as FDA Commissioner, as well as Deputy Commissioner for Medical Products and Tobacco at the FDA during the last couple of years of the Obama administration. Prior to his tenure at the FDA, he was at the Duke University School of Medicine for 30 years where he founded the Duke Clinical Research Institute, one of the largest academic clinical trial operations in the world. Califf is currently senior adviser for Verily, a research organization devoted to the life sciences, and Google Health.

“Dr. Califf’s appointment recognizes the vital importance of scientific innovation that is especially needed during this challenging period of the pandemic,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “We are excited about working with Dr. Califf again, along with the talented and innovative individuals at the FDA, to ensure the rapid approval of safe and effective treatments for patients with cancer.”

During his previous role at the FDA, the AACR worked closely with Califf. On January 8, 2016, 15 prominent members of the AACR met with him and other senior officials for a day-long meeting to discuss the agency’s current thinking on laboratory developed tests, companion diagnostics for cancer therapies, and the regulation of next-generation sequencing-based tests.

As FDA Commissioner, Califf will also have the benefit of working again with many talented and innovative leaders at the agency, including Richard Pazdur, MD, and his team at the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence. This impressive team works tirelessly to speed the availability of safe and effective therapies for patients with cancer.

The entire cancer research and patient care community also owes Janet Woodcock, MD, a tremendous amount of gratitude for her extraordinary leadership as FDA Acting Commissioner during the past 10 months and for her vision and steadfast dedication during her impressive 30+ year career at the FDA leading to improvements in the health of all Americans.