Indian American on Trump probables list for USFDA chief

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on January 12, 2018 Published on January 17, 2017

Balaji Srinivasan

Indian American Balaji Srinivasan is said to be on US President-elect Donald Trump’s list of probables for the top job at the regulatory Food and Drugs Administration (FDA).

Srinivasan met Trump last week, a person close to the development said, confirming foreign media reports. The choice is interesting given the bitter sweet relationship that the pharmaceutical industry in the US and India have with the administration.

Trump recently stirred a hornet’s nest by saying that drug companies were getting away with murder, referring to high medicine prices and jobs being shipped offshore. And in India, some of the biggest drug companies including Sun Pharma, Wockhardt and Dr Reddy’s have come in for the stick from the USFDA and are in the process of remediation. Incidentally, India has the largest number of plants approved by the USFDA outside the US.

This would be the backdrop against which Srinivasan would take office, if appointed. The cofounder of genomics company Counsyl and bitcoin firm, Srinivasan is a venture capitalist at Andreessen Horowitz and would reportedly be the youngest to helm the FDA if he gets the job. Both his parents hailing from Chennai are doctors and they immigrated to the US in the 1970’s.

Srinivasan supporters, reports say, include PayPal cofounder and billionaire investor Peter Thiel and American comic strip “Dilbert” creator Scott Adams who “seconded” Srinivasan’s candidature with a tweet that said it would make “the FDA great again”!

A chemical engineer and PhD from Stanford, Srinivasan taught computational genomics, statistics, and CS at Stanford and published papers in New England Journal of Medicine, Nature Biotechnology, and Nature Reviews Genetics. If appointed, he would be the first biotech entrepreneur to run the FDA.

Published on January 17, 2017

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