President-elect Donald Trump is considering Jim O'Neill, an associate of Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, for commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Bloomberg reports.
O'Neill, it notes, doesn't have a medical or research background — unlike agency heads during the past 50 years — though he did serve as principal associate deputy secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services during the George W. Bush administration. More recently, O'Neill has been a managing director at Mithril Capital Management, which was founded by Thiel, and is a board member of the Thiel-backed Seasteading Institute, a think tank dedicated to developing floating cities at sea.
Bloomberg adds that O'Neill has advocated for changes at FDA. During a 2014 speech at the Rejuvenation Biotechnology conference, he called for altering approval rules so that drugs, once they pass safety tests, could be purchased on the market, even if they have not yet been found to be effective. "Let's prove efficacy after they've been legalized," O'Neill said.
In the same speech, O'Neill said that while at HHS, he opposed FDA's regulation of some companies that relied on algorithms as part of their laboratory-developed tests, including the regulation of direct-to-consumer genetic testing firm 23andMe, Bloomberg notes. He said that he found FDA's argument that an algorithm could be a medical device to be "astonishing."
O'Neill also said during that same talk that he believed that it was scientifically possible to reverse aging, as Rachel Maddow points out on her MSNBC show.
At his transition site, Trump has called for FDA reform.