New head? President Bush wants Mark McClellan to lead the FDA.

New Leader Proposed for FDA

After 20 months without a leader, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may soon have a new commissioner to take the reins. President George W. Bush today named his pick, economist and physician Mark McClellan. The candidate must still be confirmed by Congress, but his prospects look good: He apparently does not have ties to industry, one of the sticking points in appointing a new commissioner.

A Texas native, McClellan, who is just 39, graduated from Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He researched health policy issues at Stanford until relocating to Washington, D.C., where he served from 1998-1999 as President Bill Clinton's deputy assistant treasury secretary for economic policy. He's currently a member of the White House's Council of Economic Advisors. (And McClellan's brother, Scott, is President Bush's deputy press secretary.) "He always brings a ton of energy to projects," says Kathryn McDonald, executive director of the Center for Primary Care in Outcomes Research at Stanford, where McClellan once worked. She recalls his successful efforts to mobilize 70 experts in various disciplines across 17 countries to investigate the economic impact of medical technologies.

McClellan faces a daunting task in running the FDA. The agency is confronting pressure from pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to streamline and speed up the drug application process, budgetary concerns stemming from relatively stagnant public funding over the last several years, and disputes over subjects ranging from biological warfare to the regulation of genetically modified foods.

McClellan's academic background appears to separate him from industry, a chief concern of some who feared a pro-industry bent at the agency. Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), who chairs the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, has lobbied against appointing anyone with ties to pharmaceutical companies. "The senator thinks that McClellan has some outstanding experience," says Jim Manley, a Kennedy spokesperson.

Related site
McClellan's home page