Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Ideal Replacement for Sharfstein; Right Down the Hall at FDA

Josh Sharfstein's departure back to the friendly Democratic climes of Maryland left HHS management and FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg with a decidedly tough bill to fill.

Where do you find someone who (1) has expereince testifying on Capitol Hill, (2) does not incite more animosity from the GOP House investigators, (3) who understands the arcane inner workings of FDA recalls and enforcement authority (a current Congressional interest), (4) is viewed favorably by regulated industry, and (5) still embodies the qualities of diversity and activism espoused by the Democratic administration?

Luckily right in the commissioner's current staff. Hamburg has already recruited that individual previously and he currently holds a top position at FDA: John Taylor, Counselor to the Commissioner for the past 14 months.

Taylor was named acting principal deputy commissioner on the day of the official announcemnet of Sharfstein's departure to head the Maryland Department of Health. Taylor's first term is for 60 days.

Taylor has 20 years of working experience with FDA issues (four outside the agency working for Abbott, 2005-2007, and two with BIO, 2007-2009) and virtually a lifetime of understanding of the agency, having grown up in a family with long service to FDA.

Taylor has worked within FDA's chief counsel's office during the Bush I and Clinton Administrations (1991-1996), was a senior policy advisor to FDA Commissioner Jane Kenney. He stayed on into the Bush II administration and served in enforcement and regulatory affairs positions under Mark McClellan.

The expereince with McClellan and with former GOP Congressman Jim Greenwood (the head of BIO) gives him the type of GOP sponsors who may get him a more civil hearing on Capitol Hill than would have been been given to Sharfstein, a protege of California Democrat Henry Waxman.

Taylor is a great immediate choice. It may be hard to find someone better after 60 days.

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