Robert Califf, President Barack Obama's nominee to take over the Food and Drug Administration, faced questions this week from a Senate committee regarding his ties to industry, the New York Times reports. Most members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions still seemed to support his nomination, it adds.
Obama nominated Califf, a Duke University cardiologist and researcher, to take over the agency following Margaret Hamburg's departure. Before she left, Hamburg named Califf the deputy commissioner for medical products and tobacco at FDA.
While at Duke, Califf ran its clinical research institute, a $200 million center that is financed by both government grants and private sector funds. This has suggested to some public health groups and Democrats that Califf might be too close to the industry that FDA regulates, the Times says.
"It's no secret that during your time at Duke, you received significant compensation" from the drug industry, Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said during the confirmation hearing, according to the Times. "It naturally raises questions about your relationships with the drug industry."
Califf noted industry is a main funder of research in the US and that having worked with companies doesn't necessarily indicate a conflict. He added that Duke has made all the contracts made with companies public and that he donated his consulting fees to nonprofits.
His supporters add that his clinical trial experience would be an asset in leading FDA.
A date for his confirmation vote has not yet been set, the Times adds.