Ned Sharpless will be named temporary chief of the Food and Drug Administration, taking the post being vacated by Scott Gottlieb.
Sharpless, currently the director of the National Cancer Institute, will serve as acting head of the agency when Gottlieb leaves later this month, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said at an appearance on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
The appointment of Sharpless, 52, could allay concerns by health advocates that Gottlieb’s departure would signal a letup in the FDA’s crackdown on flavored e-cigarettes and teen smoking. Sharpless has supported Gottlieb’s efforts to stem what the commissioner has called an “epidemic” of youth vaping.
In addition, the National Cancer Institute has worked closely with the FDA to fund research related to e-cigarette use, including the devices’ impact on smoking cessation. Gottlieb has viewed e-cigarettes as an important tool to help adults quit smoking traditional cigarettes.
Prior to joining the NCI, the federal government’s principal agency for cancer research and training, Sharpless was the director of the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. He received his medical degree from the UNC School of Medicine and did a hematology and oncology fellowship at Dana-Farber/Partners CancerCare, an oncology collaboration of Harvard Medical School-affiliated hospitals.
Sharpless also co-founded the pharmaceutical company G1 Therapeutics, which is developing cancer treatments for certain lung and breast cancers.