Senior US FDA official Woodcock to retire next year

FILE PHOTO: Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing on COVID-19 response in Washington

By Ahmed Aboulenein

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Principal Deputy Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock, who led the regulator during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic as acting chief, plans to retire early next year, the agency said on Thursday.

Woodcock, 75, is an FDA veteran who twice led its pharmaceutical division for at least a decade in each instance. There she reshaped the drug approval process, relaxing the criteria needed for certain drugs to reach the market.

"A legend in every sense of the word, Janet has made an indelible mark on so many of us, and on public health," FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf told staff in a memo made public by the agency on social media platform X.

Woodcock became acting commissioner when President Joe Biden took office in January 2021 and served for a year until Califf's appointment in February 2022, before taking on a role as his principle deputy. She oversaw the agency during a crucial time as it reviewed early vaccines and treatments for COVID-19.

She was ruled out as a permanent head of the FDA by the Biden administration because she faced firm opposition from lawmakers in the U.S. Senate. She joined the FDA in 1986.

(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Additional reporting by Bhanvi Satija in Bengaluru; Editing by Shilpi Majumdar and Daniel Wallis)