April 1, 2018

Trump Taps Elizabeth Holmes to Lead FDA

Elizabeth Holmes
Elizabeth Holmes (courtesy Max Morse for TechCrunch) and Donald J. Trump (courtesy Gage Skidmore)

WASHINGTON, D.C. April 1, 2018 — President Trump is expected to announce today the appointment of biotechnology executive Elizabeth Holmes as his choice to lead the Food and Drug Administration.

Ms. Holmes is the founder, Chairman, and CEO of Theranos, a privately held consumer healthcare technology company promising comprehensive lab tests from samples as small as a few drops of blood at unprecedented low prices. Theranos came under scrutiny in 2016 amidst allegations of false claims about its revolutionary blood tests.

In a Tweet statement, Trump said that Holmes’ “unprecedented accomplishment in the healthcare sector” and her “commitment to transparent, consumer and health ” made her exactly the kind of outsider to “shake things up” at the FDA.

A source close to Ms. Holmes said that she wants a “faster, cheaper and more accurate” approach to doing business at the FDA. Another source said that she will bring to the agency the slogan, “More with Less,” a nod to both her company’s technology and the Administration’s promise of providing better government at lower cost.

Holmes’ appointment comes amid a broader shake-up that began with Trump’s firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on March 13, followed by the ouster of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin earlier this week.

President Trump cited Holmes’ widespread support within the healthcare sector. “Elizabeth is a beautiful, talented, self-made woman who started with nothing but an idea and built a multi-billion-dollar company,” he said. “Who doesn’t love that kind of story?”

In addition to regulating food, medicines, and consumer products to protect public health, the FDA is also responsible for speeding innovations that make medical products safer, more effective, and more affordable. Holmes has only recent experience with the regulatory process, but her ambition to bring new products to market could be a boon.

Holmes supported Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign. When asked about this, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded, “Both the President and Ms. Holmes share a proven track record of creative business strategies and fighting fake news in the mainstream media.”  

Current FDA chief Scott Gottlieb is widely considered to have achieved some success in balancing the interests of drug and health companies against those of public health. Gottlieb’s fate is still unknown.

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