By Lisa Seachrist

Washington Editor

WASHINGTON — The Clinton administration appears to have decided against the advice of Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala and has expanded its search for FDA commissioner.

Industry sources told BioWorld Today University of New Mexico's vice president for health sciences, Jane Henney, and current head of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), Janet Woodcock, look to be leading candidates.

In late August, Lead Deputy Commissioner Michael Friedman was recommended by Shalala to take over the agency. Since then, however, Friedman's name has not been mentioned as a serious candidate to fill the shoes of former commissioner David Kessler, who left in February to head Yale University School of Medicine.

"Friedman's star has seemingly peaked and gone down," an industry source told BioWorld Today.

Henney and Woodcock are physicians by training and served at the FDA under Kessler. They are considered by industry sources to have the credentials needed to head the agency.

Prior to accepting the post at the University of New Mexico in 1994, Henney, an oncologist, served two years as deputy commissioner for operations at the FDA. Henney received her medical training at the Indiana University School of Medicine and her oncology training at the M.D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute, in Houston.

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 advisory committee to the director as well as NIH's biotechnology committee.

Henney, however, has been described by some as not reform-minded enough to head the FDA.

Woodcock, a rheumatologist, directed the Office of Therapeutics Research and Review of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) at the FDA prior to heading CDER. Woodcock received her medical degree from Northwestern University Medical School, in Chicago, and her rheumatology training at the University of California, San Francisco.

She joined CBER's Division of Biological Investigational New Drugs in 1986. Since then, she has overseen the approval of the first biotechnology-based treatments for cystic fibrosis and multiple sclerosis.

FDA insiders Bill Schultz, deputy commissioner for policy, and Mary Pendergast, deputy commissioner and senior advisor to the commissioner, also were said to be considered as possible candidates in August. However, they too, like Friedman, appear unlikely to take over the post. *