With Congress pushing for faster approval of new medications and federal coffers shrinking, the FDA is facing tough challenges.
Hear what lies ahead for the agency and the future of consumer safety.
Von Eschenbach leads the nation's premiere consumer protection and health agency, with regulated products that account for more than 20 percent of consumer spending.
As the former director of the National Cancer Institute, von Eschenbach is a nationally recognized urologic surgeon and oncologist- The Commonwealth Club of California
Donald Kennedy, an internationally recognized neurophysiologist who headed both the FDA and Stanford University, was born in New York in 1931.
He pursued both his undergraduate and graduate education at Harvard, receiving a PhD in biological sciences in 1956.
Following a four-year period on the faculty at Syracuse University, Kennedy moved to the Department of Biological Sciences at Stanford in 1960, the institution where he spent the rest of his academic career. His broad interests included comparative marine biology, public policy, nutrition, and recombinant DNA technology.
Joseph Califano, Secretary of HEW, appointed Kennedy to head the FDA in April 1977. During the next 26 months of his tenure as Food and Drug Commissioner, the agency dealt with the repercussions of the attempt to ban saccharin, attempted to overhaul the drug provisions of the FD&C Act in the proposed Drug Regulation Reform Act of 1978, and conducted a major revision of many of its good manufacturing practices, among other developments.
Kennedy left the agency in June 1979 and returned to Stanford, where he was first vice president for academic affairs and provost and then, from 1980 to 1991, president of the university. In 1992, Kennedy returned to the faculty as Bing Professor of Environmental Sciences.
The many recognitions he has received include honorary degrees from Columbia, Rochester, Michigan, and Arizona, and memberships in the National Academy of Sciences and on the editorial boards of Science, the Journal of Neurophysiology, and the Journal of Comparative Physiology.
Andrew C. von Eschenbach M.D.
Andrew C. von Eschenbach, M.D., was sworn in as the 20th commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on December 13, 2006.
As commissioner, he leads the nation's premiere consumer protection and health agency, regulating products that account for more than 20% of consumer spending.
As the former Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Dr. von Eschenbach is a nationally recognized urologic surgeon and oncologist. His distinguished career as a key leader in the fight against cancer spans nearly three decades.
Prior to being appointed to lead the NCI in January 2002, Dr. von Eschenbach served as executive vice president and chief academic officer of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, leading a faculty of more than 1,000 cancer researchers and clinicians.
At M.D. Anderson he also served as vice president for academic affairs and held the Roy M. and Phyllis Gough Huffington Clinical Research Distinguished Chair in Urologic Oncology.
Dr. von Eschenbach, as founding director of the Prostate Cancer Research Program, was instrumental in fostering integrated research programs in the biology, epidemiology, prevention, and treatment of prostate cancer at M.D. Anderson. where he also directed the Genitourinary Cancer Center. He joined M.D. Anderson as a urologic oncology fellow in 1976 and was invited to join the faculty the following year.
Just six years later - in 1983 - he was named chairman of the Department of Urology. Other positions von Eschenbach held at M.D. Anderson include Consulting Professor of Cell Biology and Professor of Urology.
Dr. von Eschenbach, himself a cancer survivor, has had an impact on the fight against cancer that extends beyond the clinical and academic communities. He is a founding member of C-Change and was president-elect of the American Cancer Society at the time of his appointment to the NCI.
In addition, he has made significant contributions to scientific literature: more than 200 articles, books, and book chapters. Dr. von Eschenbach has also served as an editorial board member of several leading journals and on several organizational boards.
Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Andrew von Eschenbach states the current clinical trials are "slow, laborious, and fraught with failure" and "subject patients to risky experimentation."
In response to this failure, Dr. von Eschenbach advocates the Sentinel Initiative - an electronic system which tracks drug performance to the benefit of public health.
Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Andrew von Eschenbach details the "CSI-like investigation" in ferreting out the source of Salmonella-tainted tomatoes.
After "identifying the culprit," the bacteria must be traced through an "enormously complex supply chain" to its source.
Considering the global complexity of the food system in which food is "mixed, mingled, shipped, sold" without regard to disease, Dr. von Eschenbach calls for a new regulatory body which prevents against further outbreaks.
This challenge, he says, calls for "new authorities, new information, and new scientific technologies."