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Call to Fill FDA Spot

Half a dozen former commissioners of the US Food and Drug Administration are calling on President Joe Biden to nominate a new agency head, Stat News reports.

Stephen Hahn stepped down from the post with the change in administrations and, currently, Janet Woodcock is serving as the acting FDA commissioner. Mark McClellan, FDA commissioner during the Bush Administration and a signatory of the new letter, told Politico in January filling the spot should be a priority during a pandemic.

In a letter to President Biden, the former commissioners — who also include Robert Califf, Scott Gottlieb, Margaret Hamburg, Jane Henney, and Andrew von Eschenbach — echo that sentiment, saying that the agency "is playing a critical role in our nation's response to the COVID pandemic."

"To continue to advance the agency's mission, and promote its independent role, we urge you to prioritize securing its leadership team, including through seeking the formal nomination and confirmation of an FDA Commissioner," they add.

The New York Times reported last month that Woodcock and Joshua Sharfstein, who was deputy commissioner at FDA during the Obama Administration, are leading candidates for the post, but that others including David Kessler, Amy Abernethy, FDA's principal deputy commissioner; and Luciana Borio, a former acting chief scientist at FDA have also been considered.

The Scan

Panel Votes for COVID-19 Pill

A US Food and Drug Administration panel has voted to support the emergency use authorization of an antiviral pill for COVID-19 from Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, CNN says.

But Not Harm

New Scientist reports that UK bioethicists say that though gene editing may improve food production, it should not harm livestock welfare.

Effectiveness Drop Anticipated

Moderna's Stéphane Bancel predicts that that current SARS-CoV-2 vaccines may be less effective against the Omicron variant, the Financial Times reports.

Cell Studies of Human Chromatin Accessibility, SARS-CoV-2 Variants, Cell Signaling Networks

In Cell this week: chromatin accessibility maps of adult human tissues, modeling to track SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, and more.