Dr. Robert Califf has been approved as FDA Commissioner by the Senate’s H.E.L.P. Committee.
However, even if the Committee’s votes were unanimous it doesn’t mean that the full Senate will vote in favour of Califf with the same enthusiasm.
Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski has threatened to put a “hold” on his nomination because FDA’s approval of genetically engineered salmon which the agency says doesn’t need any special labelling. As the GE salmon grows really fast, the salmon industry in Alaska fears it will have a lot to lose if the genetically engineered fish won’t be labelled as such.
Only two days after Califf’s nomination hearing in November 2015 the FDA approved AquaAdvantage genetically engineered salmon produced by AquaBounty Technologies. This decision angered Sen. Murkowski as after the hearing Califf said he will notify her before the FDA’s approval of the GE salmon. Murkowski accuses Califf of not being straightforward.
However the FDA has been reviewing AquaAdvantage salmon since over a decade ago, long before Califf has joined the agency in 2015. Before Cliff has joined the FDA in March 2015 Dr. Margaret Hamburg was the agency’s commissioner. Cliff has since served as deputy commissioner for tobacco and medical products as he is waiting for Congress’s approval. Being part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the FDA has jurisdiction over more than 80 percent of the United States’ food supply.
Before joining the FDA Califf, has worked as a cardiologist with the Medical Center and also with the School of Medicine of Duke University since 1982.
In 2006 Califf has founded the Translational medicine Institute at Duke University. He served as a vice chancellor of the university, as director of the institute, as a director of the Cardiac Care Unit and as a professor of medicine.
Califf has been part of a large number of professional organizations. Between 1996 and 2000 he was a member of the FDA’s Committee of Cardio Renal Advisory and of the Science Board Working Grop between 2007 and 2008.
Regarding his nominee as FDA’s Commissioner Sen. Patty Murray said she was confident that Dr. Califf is going to be a valuable partner, serving the best interests of communities and families all over the country.
The toughest opponents of Califf were the left-wing Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. They both show concerns regarding the part played by Califf in Duke’s research and funding for pharmaceutical companies.
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