Norman “Ned” Sharpless, the head of the National Cancer Institute and a cancer researcher and physician, will lead the Food and Drug Administration as acting commissioner, the Department of Health and Human Services announced on Tuesday.
Sharpless will take over for the current commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, who announced last week that he would resign — a departure that came as a surprise to many.
Sharpless will not necessarily have the job permanently, however. To become commissioner, he will have to be appointed by President Trump and confirmed by the Senate.
Trump appointed Sharpless to lead the National Cancer Institute, the agency that oversees cancer research within the National Institutes of Health, in the fall of 2017.
Before that, Sharpless was a cancer researcher and hematologist-oncologist at the University of North Carolina, where he had led the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center since 2014. He has conducted research into how normal cells age and turn into malignant tumors.
One of Gottlieb’s most high-profile initiatives during his tenure was cracking down on the e-cigarette industry for fueling a rise in teen vaping. His departure raised concerns among public health advocates that the FDA would ease up on enforcement in his absence. But they may take comfort in the fact that Sharpless has publicly supported the agency’s policies to curb the use of e-cigarettes.
His appointment may be less comforting news to e-cigarette manufacturers, however.
In Sharpless’s place, the National Cancer Institute will be run by current deputy director Doug Lowy, according to the HHS.