US Capitol with Senate building in the foreground
US Capitol with Senate building in the foreground

Robert Califf Confirmed to Lead FDA

A narrow Senate vote ends a 13-month period during which the agency has lacked a permanent commissioner.

Shawna Williams
Shawna Williams

Shawna joined The Scientist in 2017 and is now a senior editor and news director. She holds a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Colorado College and a graduate certificate and science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Feb 15, 2022


After a contentious confirmation process, the US Senate today voted 50-46 to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominee, cardiologist Robert Califf, to helm the Food and Drug Administration. Califf, who previously led the agency during the final 10 months of President Barack Obama’s administration, drew opposition from some Senate Democrats and from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) due to his ties to the pharmaceutical industry; he previously worked at Verily, a biotechnology company with the same parent company as Google, and has consulted for several drug companies. 

See “Biden Picks Robert Califf to Head the FDA for a Second Time” 

In a statement following the confirmation vote, Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA), who voted no, cites what he calls “the FDA’s egregious mishandling of opioid approvals and its role in enabling the current opioid epidemic.” Markey continues: “I have not received any real commitment from Dr. Califf to truly reform the FDA or to learn from the failures that fueled this public health crisis.” 

In comments quoted by The New York Times, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, says, “Dr. Califf’s previous service in this role, his career as one of the nation’s leading research scientists, gives him the experience to take on this challenge.”   

According to STAT, Califf has asked Janet Woodcock, who has been serving as acting FDA commissioner, to stay on in a leadership role after his confirmation.