Pick the Commish: Fierce Pharma voters select Abernethy for next FDA chief

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Fierce Pharma's search for an FDA commissioner has ended with voters choosing current FDA Deputy Commissioner Amy Abernethy, M.D., Ph.D. (Getty Images)

Fierce Pharma voters agree: The next FDA commissioner should be principal deputy chief Amy Abernethy, M.D., Ph.D. In the final round of voting, which saw her face off against former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., Abernethy garnered widespread support for her leadership style, work ethic and intellect.

“Outstanding,” “great energy,” “nurturing leader” and “sensible and will not be politically swayed” were some of the descriptors from Abernethy voters.

Whether President-elect Joe Biden chooses her—she was reported to be on several shortlists for the job—she certainly has the depth and breadth of experience required.

During her almost two years as second-in-command at the FDA and its chief information officer, she has overseen day-to-day operations as well as the agency’s data and technical vision.

She heads the FDA’s involvement in COVID-19 Diagnostics Evidence Accelerator, a public-private diagnostic research project to bring more real-world data and gauge the accuracy of different kinds of tests. Abernethy also helmed a widely praised revamp of FDA.gov, designed to be more user-friendly and easily viewable on any device.

She is a hemotologist-oncologist with expertise in cancer data, real-world evidence, clinical trials, health services research and patient-centered care, according to her FDA bio.

RELATED: Makeover at FDA: Agency revamps website, aiming for user-friendly and tech-savvy

She also spent time at least a short time in the pharmaceutical world as chief medical and scientific officer and senior VP of oncology at Flatiron Health, which was acquired by Roche before she left for the FDA. Flatiron, founded by former Google employees and seed-funded by the tech giant, set itself apart by building build high-quality curated datasets from hard-to-access sources. Roche bought the company in early 2018 in a $1.9 billion deal.

While a few voters noted that Gottlieb would have had difficulty getting Congressional approval as a former Trump appointee, Abernethy does not bear that same stamp. Principal deputy commissioner is the highest role at the FDA that is not a political appointment.

In fact, she was hired by Gottlieb in late 2018, with high praise from the chief.

Gottlieb described Abernethy as a “highly regarded thought leader” in evidence generation and clinical trial efficiency, and in a letter to agency colleagues announcing the choice, he said she's helped lead the vision for real-world evidence-based research.

RELATED: FDA joins new, public-private COVID-19 diagnostic research accelerator effort

Some of the other voter comments about Abernethy:

“Astounding leader, proven ability to transform FDA to the next step. An inspiring leader, Amy connects well with all levels in her organization well and presents her vision.”

“You won't find a better candidate. She will get the job done.”

“Dr. Abernethy's vast experience and leadership will serve her well in this role. She brings so much energy to every project she works on. She will work hard to get the job done. Her work ethic is flawless.”

Thank you to everyone who participated by voting and commenting. The Fierce readers have spoken—your move, President-elect Biden.