By Toni Clarke and Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama nominated Dr. Robert Califf to serve as commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the White House said on Tuesday.
Califf, a leading cardiologist and researcher who joined the agency in January as deputy commissioner for medical products and tobacco, was widely expected to be named to the post, but the announcement came earlier than some had expected.
If confirmed by the Senate, Califf would replace Dr. Stephen Ostroff, who has served as acting commissioner since Dr. Margaret Hamburg stepped down earlier this year.
The FDA oversees products ranging from food and drugs to tobacco and cosmetics, which account for about 20 cents of every dollar spent by U.S. consumers.
Industry observers do not expect him to face significant opposition.
"He's widely respected by the medical community and represents a terrific choice to lead the FDA," said Dr. Steven Nissen, head of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. "He has good ideas but he doesn't run over people with them. He will get along well with Congress."
Califf was formerly vice chancellor of clinical and translational research at Duke University, a field focused on translating scientific advances into medical care.
If approved, he will take up his post as the FDA prepares to implement what could be a slew of changes sparked by a U.S. House of Representatives bill designed to speed new drugs to the market.
The bill, known as the 21st Century Cures Act, was passed by the House. It would require the FDA to incorporate patient experience into its decision-making, streamline its review of drugs and consider more flexible forms of clinical trials.
A similar bill is being considered in the Senate.
In a conference call with reporters in January when he was named deputy commissioner, Califf said one of his priorities in that job would be to try to find ways to streamline the clinical trial process. He personally worked on many high-profile clinical studies.
Califf is a known quantity at the FDA. He has known Dr. Janet Woodcock, the agency's head of pharmaceuticals, for 20 years. In January, Woodcock said the FDA was "extremely fortunate to have him come work with us."
(Additioanal reporting by Ransdell Pierson in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney)