By Lisa Seachrist
WASHINGTON — Jane Henney, a former FDA deputy commissioner and the vice president of health sciences at the University of New Mexico, is the Clinton administration's choice to take over the FDA. Her appointment could come this week.
The FDA has been without a permanent chief since controversial leader David Kessler stepped down in February 1997 to head the medical school at Yale University, in New Haven, Conn.
A spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) confirmed that not only does the senator wholeheartedly support Henney's nomination as FDA commissioner, but that she is the top choice of President Clinton, who will nominate her to the post upon completion of her routine FBI background check, which began in February.
Henney was U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy's (D-Mass.) choice for the position, and the senator lobbied hard to get her name on the list of potential commissioners.
"Senator Kennedy feels she is well-qualified for the job and has supported her from the outset," a Kennedy spokesperson told BioWorld Today. "She knows the issues, and she knows the agency."
Henney's name, along with the name of the current head of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Janet Woodcock, came to the top of the list when lead deputy commissioner Michael Friedman, Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala's first choice for the job, fell out of favor with the White House, reportedly over pediatric testing of drugs. (See BioWorld Today, October 31, 1997, p. 1.)
By mid-November last year Henney alone occupied the lead candidate spot on the list (See BioWorld Today, Nov. 20, 1997, p. 1.)
Henney Tires Of Waiting
Biotechnology industry sources were saying in April Henney had become frustrated with the delay of her nomination and notified the Clinton administration that unless she was well on her way to confirmation by the end of the 105th Congress, she would be unwilling to take the job.
Henney, an oncologist by training, served from 1992 to 1994 as deputy commissioner for operations under Kessler. Before she joined the FDA, Henney served as deputy director of the National Cancer Institute and vice chancellor for health programs and policy at the University of Kansas Medical Center, in Kansas City.
She currently serves on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) advisory committee to the director as well as NIH's biotechnology committee. In addition, she is president of the U.S. Pharmacopeia, a nonprofit group that sets purity and quality standards for medicines. *