National Cancer Institute Director Norman "Ned" Sharpless will assume the post of acting Food and Drug Administration commissioner. Sharpless will replace Scott Gottlieb.

Alex Azar, Human and Health Services secretary, made the announcement of Sharpless' appointment in a congressional hearing of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce's health subcommittee on March 12.

Gottlieb who served as FDA commissioner over the last two years recently announced that he plans to resign from the agency. He said he wants to spend more time with his family in Connecticut.

He expressed his parting message in a Twitter post.

"I'm immensely grateful for the opportunity to help lead the agency, for the support of my colleagues, for the public health goals we advanced together, and the strong support of @SecAzar and @realDonaldTrump - This has been a wonderful journey and parting is very hard," tweeted Gottlieb, outgoing FDA commissioner.

No Let-Up In The Initiatives Vs. Tobacco

The HHS said Sharpless' background and expertise make him a strong leader for the FDA.

"There will be no let-up in the agency's focus, from ongoing efforts on drug approvals and combating the opioid crisis to modernizing food safety and addressing the rapid rise in youth use of e-cigarettes," according to Azar.

Last year, the FDA launched the campaign "The Real Cost" Youth E-Cigarette Prevention Campaign as part of the agency's efforts to protect the youth from the dangers of tobacco use. The campaigns target to reach more than 10 million youth ages 12 to 17 who have used e-cigarettes or are open to trying them. The FDA said more than 2 million youth are using e-cigarettes.

Support From Scott Gottlieb

Gottlieb is backing up Sharpless' appointment as he described his successor as a great public health champion and a dedicated physician. He added that the FDA would benefit from Sharpless' leadership.

In a staff memo sent to the FDA employees, Gottlieb said Sharpless is a valued colleague to the FDA and is deeply committed to public health.

"Dr. Sharpless shares our mission and I know he will be embraced warmly by the Agency's professional staff," Gottlieb said.

Ned Sharpless' Credentials

Sharpless became the director of the National Cancer Institute, the federal government's leading agency for cancer research training in 2017. He previously served as director of the North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The oncology specialist received his medical degree from the UNC School of Medicine. He has co-founded the biotech company Gi Therapeutics that develops cancer drugs and HealthSpan Diagnostics, a company that develops blood tests.

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