WASHINGTON—Ask Carl C. Peck of the Food and Drug Administration how important research is to his job, and he’ll simply point to the title of the center he heads. Peck is the first director of the FDA’s new Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. He said he has an “upfront agreement” with FDA Commissioner Frank E. Young to “bring research and training to a new level of legitimacy in this agency.” The result, he said, will be ‘an emphasis on scientific research that “really hasn’t been there for a long time, if ever.” Peck’s approach won't mean that researchers will carry out research in isolation from regulators. “The type of process I want to promote is to get the reviewers, when they’re faced with a problem, to the point where they’ll ask the researchers about ways in which that problem might be tackled.

“In an agency that regulates drugs where...

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