Who is Ned Sharpless, the soon-to-be Acting Commissioner of the FDA?
Dr. Scott Gottlieb’s March 5 announcement that he is resigning his post as FDA Commissioner leaves a considerable hole in the Trump Administration that cannot go unfilled. Ned Sharpless will be stepping into this position temporarily until such time that the president chooses a permanent replacement. But who is Ned Sharpless, and what are his views on vaping?
The March 13 appointment of the current Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Bethesda, Maryland, is said to have a deep scientific background and strong leadership skills. Among his many accomplishments, Sharpless has a reputation for granting easier access of NCI funds for research grants particularly in the medical fields involving pediatric cancer patients.
FDA’s Sharpless has strong background in cancer research
Although Sharpless does not have a professional background in industry regulation and oversight, he has been instrumental in starting two biotech companies in the past. Gottlieb personally recommended Sharpless as his replacement, which may be at least partially why he won the temporary post so quickly.
So, it makes sense that, according to the New York Times, Sharpless also plans to maintain Gottlieb’s vision regarding regulatory actions of the vaping industry.
However, it remains unclear as to whether an Acting FDA Commissioner has the power and authority to continue making sweeping and often controversial changes related to the tobacco and e-cigarette industries. A presidential temporarily appointment may not enough to gain the true power. A Senate confirmation process is typically required.
Over the past two years, Gottlieb has pursued the tightening of restrictions on the sales of flavored vapes while threatening to ban all menthol-flavored tobacco products. He’s even entertained the concept of introducing regulatory requirements that would significantly reduce nicotine levels of conventional tobacco products.
BuzzFeed calls Sharpless a “cancer scientist,” but the news outlet also predicts that the Acting Commissioner may not hold his position for very long. His current job as NCI Director is also being filled temporarily by its Deputy Director Doug Lowry, which implies that all the critical players involved are viewing this move as an interim remedy rather than a long-term solution.
(Image courtesy of National Institutes of Health)