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Public Policy Newsletter Article

FDA Names Cavazzoni to Head CDER

  • 2021-04-22T15:00:00.000+0000
  • Author: Izzie Omer

As the search for the new FDA commissioner continues, Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni was named the new permanent director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). In January 2021, Janet Woodcock, the then head of CDER, took over as the acting commissioner, opening the position and allowing Cavazzoni to temporarily step in. On April 12, Cavazzoni’s position was made permanent.

Cavazzoni will be the fourth permanent director of CDER, a position that Woodcock has occupied for twenty of the last twenty-four years. Cavazzoni joined the FDA in 2018 as CDER's deputy director for operations, later serving as the acting principal deputy commissioner from January 2019 to February 2019. She holds an MD from McGill University and briefly practiced. Cavazzoni also has hands on experience in the pharmaceutical industry. She worked at Eli Lilly, Sanofi, and Pfizer for several years in various positions across clinical development, regulatory affairs, and safety risk management before joining the FDA.

The appointment shines light on a continuing issue for the FDA – four months into his presidency, Biden has yet to name a permanent commissioner. Cavazzoni’s appointment also means Woodcock cannot return to her former role in CDER. Woodcock is considered a top contender for the appointment of FDA commissioner. In a memo to FDA staff, Woodcock noted that in addition to her current acting role as FDA commissioner, she also has a "position of record" as principal medical adviser to the next commissioner should someone else be chosen.