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Genomics Advocate von Eschenbach Confirmed as FDA Commissioner

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The US Senate yesterday confirmed Andrew von Eschenbach to be the new commissioner off the Food and Drug Administration.
The Bush appointee, a staunch supporter of genomic technologies in drug discovery, was approved after serving as acting commissioner since September 2005 after former commissioner Lester Crawford resigned.
Von Eschenbach previously headed the National Cancer Institute and was chief academic officer at Houston’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, a background that could spell good news for genomics researchers because cancer research is a principal user of genomics technologies.
Indeed, von Eschenbach's background in cancer, along with recent statements he made, suggest that his tenure as FDA head may encourage the use of genomics and other molecular technologies in medicine.
For example, as head of the NCI, von Eschenbach pushed a program of translational research, and comments before a Senate subcommittee hearing in April 2005 he announced a goal to eliminate cancer by 2015 through an understanding of the interaction of genetics and other factors.
"Scientific advances and major discoveries from areas such as genomics, nanotechnology, proteomics, immunology, and bioinformatics allow us to envision a not too-distant future when a patient's genetic, lifestyle, and environmental risk for cancer can be combined with effective prevention and early intervention strategies especially for those at high risk,” von Eschenbach said at the hearing.
The Biotechnology Industry Organization cheered the confirmation. BIO president Jim Greenwood said in a release that he “applauds” the confirmation and said von Eschenbach “appreciates the importance of education and research in achieving scientific breakthroughs.”
The reaction from Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturer's Association of America was equally glowing. PhRMA CEO and former Louisiana congressman Billy Tauzin said the confirmation will "ensure a strong, independent FDA" that he said is "more likely to be focused on long-term programs and policies and strategic thinking."
Von Eschenbach earned a medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine in 1967 and worked as an instructor in urology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. From 1968 to 1971, von Eschenbach served as a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy Medical Corps.

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