Hello and happy hump day, readers!
The rumor mill is churning on who may be the next Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner—and some of the early money is on Dr. Stephen Hahn, a renowned oncologist who serves as the chief medical executive at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, according to a report by STAT News.
MD Anderson was mum when responding to Fortune‘s request for comment on the issue (“We do not have information regarding Dr. Hahn’s nomination,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement). But, if the reports are true, Hahn would be replacing another cancer specialist—Dr. Ned Sharpless, the current acting FDA chief and the former director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Sharpless was tapped for the interim position in March after the abrupt departure of former FDA commish Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who was largely seen as an ambitious agency head that pushed for faster drug approvals and a concerted crackdown on tobacco and vaping products.
If Hahn makes it through the vetting process and is ultimately nominated, it’s difficult to see him being voted down in the Senate. (An official nomination for a permanent commissioner has to be submitted by November 1.) It’s striking, though, that prominent public health officials—including Gottlieb himself—had called for Sharpless to be appointed to the position on a long-term basis. “Ned Sharpless is an outstanding physician and scientist who is deeply committed to public health goals and the mission of FDA and I hope to see him permanently nominated into that role,” wrote Gottlieb in a tweet last month.
But Hahn may well continue the efforts Gottlieb and Sharpless began—such as promoting faster drug approvals, especially in the cancer space, and dealing with the blowback from the e-cigarette and vaping industry scandals that have dogged the sector. We’ll find out soon enough.
Read on for the day’s news.
Novartis, Microsoft team up on A.I. drug development project. Drug giant Novartis has been making bets on artificial intelligence in drug development for a while. Now, the company has joined forces with Microsoft to use A.I. in just about every part of the discovery and development supply chain. “Novartis and Microsoft are collaborating to explore how to take advantage of advanced Microsoft AI technology combined with Novartis’ deep life sciences expertise to find new ways to address the challenges underlying every phase of drug development—including research, clinical trials, manufacturing, operations, and finance,” wrote Microsoft in a blog post announcing the partnership. (Microsoft Blog)
Glaxo forges ahead in quest to have the first approved triple-drug combo for asthma. British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline is marching forward with a supplemental new drug application for Trelegy Ellipta in order to treat asthma in adults. Trelegy is already approved for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a degenerative lung condition that’s the number three killer of Americans. Now, it’s hoping this triple-drug cocktail, a once-daily treatment administered by inhaler, can also become the first asthma therapy in its class. The company got some good news this week when the FDA declined to approve AstraZeneca’s competing experimental treatment in the same space.
THE BIG PICTURE
Get ready for CBD skin care products. CBD has managed to already jump the shark. The marijuana derivative—which, unlike THC, doesn’t produce a “high,” but has been credited with some questionable health benefits in everything from pain to sleep disorders—is popping up in just about every food and supplement product known to man. So why not add makeup to the list? My colleague Kate Bowers reports on how CBD skincare is going mainstream and is about to hit chain stores like Walgreens and CVS—and parses what we actually know about CBD’s health benefits versus the hype. (Fortune)
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Apple Urges Supreme Court to Save DACA, by Alyssa Newcomb
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