FDA's 1st Chief Scientist speaks

Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration linkurl:named;http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2008/NEW01816.html cancer biologist linkurl:Frank Torti;http://www1.wfubmc.edu/canbio/Faculty/Torti+F.htm as the agency's first ever Chief Scientist. Torti, who is also the director of Wake Forest's linkurl:Comprehensive Cancer Center,;http://www1.wfubmc.edu/cancer/ will leave North Carolina and begin work early next month at the FDA. The researcher and clinician took time to talk with me and share hi

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

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Apr 15, 2008
Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration linkurl:named;http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2008/NEW01816.html cancer biologist linkurl:Frank Torti;http://www1.wfubmc.edu/canbio/Faculty/Torti+F.htm as the agency's first ever Chief Scientist. Torti, who is also the director of Wake Forest's linkurl:Comprehensive Cancer Center,;http://www1.wfubmc.edu/cancer/ will leave North Carolina and begin work early next month at the FDA. The researcher and clinician took time to talk with me and share his plans on building up the science side of the agency's mission. Torti, who will report directly to FDA commissioner linkurl:Andrew C. von Eschenbach;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/12978/ and oversee the FDA's linkurl:National Center for Toxicological Research,;http://www.fda.gov/NCTR/ said he hopes "not to remediate, but to augment" science at the FDA. "We intend to have a substantial impact across the board by not only developing new scientific insights through collaborations with academia, industry where appropriate, and others, as well as developing them within the FDA," Torti said, "but just pushing that science forward across the different centers of...
i;http://www1.wfubmc.edu/canbio/Faculty/Torti+F.htm as the agency's first ever Chief Scientist. Torti, who is also the director of Wake Forest's linkurl:Comprehensive Cancer Center,;http://www1.wfubmc.edu/cancer/ will leave North Carolina and begin work early next month at the FDA. The researcher and clinician took time to talk with me and share his plans on building up the science side of the agency's mission. Torti, who will report directly to FDA commissioner linkurl:Andrew C. von Eschenbach;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/12978/ and oversee the FDA's linkurl:National Center for Toxicological Research,;http://www.fda.gov/NCTR/ said he hopes "not to remediate, but to augment" science at the FDA. "We intend to have a substantial impact across the board by not only developing new scientific insights through collaborations with academia, industry where appropriate, and others, as well as developing them within the FDA," Torti said, "but just pushing that science forward across the different centers of the FDA, creating levels of integration that weren't there before. And through all these mechanisms, make the FDA as scientifically contemporary and relevant as it should be." One major step, Torti said, will be to recruit young talent into the agency's ranks with the help of a new FDA fellowship program that aims to attract 2,000 young scientists and clinicians. "I am particularly very interested in increasing the training efforts in regulatory science at the FDA," he said. "We want to go out and recruit the very best young scientists." Specific areas where having a head scientist could speed approvals of safe, effective drugs include emerging treatments involving cancer stem cells, nanotechnology, and post-marketing surveillance of the safety and efficacy of drugs, Torti said. When I asked Torti how he might ensure timely review of new drug applications, a process which has recently been slowed by backlogs, he returned to his goal of recruiting fresh faces into the agency. "I think speeding up regulatory processes that are quite advanced will come from the recruitment of a very specific kind of person who understands and can deal with those late-stage regulatory issues," he said. Torti said, however, that he has no delusions as to his immediate impact at the FDA. "I don't think my job is going to move ten drugs that needed someone to review the paperwork more quickly," he said. "But on the other hand, I do think that over time my role will really help that process." To listen to a brief snippet of my conversation with Frank Torti, click linkurl:here.;http://images.the-scientist.com/supplementary/audio/torti_cut.wav And please share your thoughts about the FDA's new chief scientist position and what impact you think it'll have on the agency by posting a comment linkurl:here.;http://www.the-scientist.com/forum/addcomment/54555/ (__Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Torti would be overseeing the NIH's National Toxicology Program. In fact, he will be overseeing the FDA's National Center for Toxicological Research. __The Scientist__ regrets the error.__)

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