FDA begins bringing in higher-salary talent with authority from 21st Century Cures Act

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., addressed how his agency is working to improve efficiency and better compete with the private sector for talent. (FDA)

The Food and Drug Administration has begun using hiring authority granted under the 21st Century Cures Act to begin bringing on more specialized talent at higher salaries in an effort to buttress the agency against expected turnover as more senior staff approach retirement. 

Gottlieb said two people have already been hired with the authority granted by the legislation to bring top candidates in at more competitive salaries and he expects to bring on about two dozen more in the next three months, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., said. This is in response to concerns he raised recently that nearly 50% of FDA officials in senior roles at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research are nearing retirement age.

"I think it's obvious there are some people in senior roles who aren't going to be there for another 15 or 20 years. We are doing succession planning," Gottlieb said, addressing attendees at the VC's to DC event hosted by the National Venture Capital Association on Wednesday in response to a question about expected staff changes. "There are key roles in the drug center for example where I think these issues are more pronounced."

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It is part of a broader strategy of addressing recruitment and retention at the agency including broader hiring practices, he said.

"The challenge, historically, has been the slowness of the onboarding process. It can take up to 500 days to onboard a medical reviewer," Gottlieb said. He said the FDA is piloting new hiring process for certain positions, including medical review slows, to get the length of time for onboarding staff down to about three months. "I think that's going to facilitate our ability to recruit people more effectively because we were losing people while they waited."