Gottlieb Lays Out Plans to Attract and Preserve Top Talent at the FDA

Published: Jul 18, 2017

Gottlieb Lays Out Plans to Attract and Preserve Top Talent at the FDA July 18, 2017
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is looking for a few good men (and women).

The regulatory agency is tackling a new way to recruit top talent—talent that will fill a “substantial” number of vacant positions. In a blog post on Monday, newly dubbed Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said he has tasked his agency with evaluating its hiring practices and procedures to attract the best candidates for open positions. Gottlieb said the FDA’s “traditional approach to recruiting and hiring” is not as efficient as it should be when seeking to hire talent—particularly as private industry competes for those same would-be employees.

“…we’re increasingly competing with better-resourced entities in the private sector for the same limited pool of people with very specific clinical and scientific skills and training. These are challenges that our current approach to hiring did not anticipate. It’s critical that we modernize the process for recruiting personnel into these specialized positions within our agency’s programs,” Gottlieb wrote on the FDA blog.

Part of the FDA’s goal, Gottlieb added, is also taking into consideration maintaining those employees for the long-term after they have been hired. One way that will be met, Gottlieb said, is through provisions in the 21st Century Cures Act, which gave the FDA the tools to hire top talent at competitive salaries.

As a result of this need, Gottlieb said the FDA will be working with a new hiring procedure that is consistent with the “Reimagine HHS” initiative put into place by Tom Price, secretary of Health and Human Services. The new policy includes a dedicated recruiting team to identify and hire the best candidates. Shortly after taking office, President Donald Trump initiated a federal hiring freeze, but Gottlieb was able to lift that at the FDA.

Even before Gottlieb took over at the FDA earlier this year, the agency has been looking to fill numerous positions. In June 2016, former FDA Commissioner Robert Califf used the same agency blog to lay out the agency’s hiring needs—about 1,000 employees. But those needs go back even farther. In 2007, the FDA released its “Mission at Rick” report, which also highlighted hiring needs. An FDA spokesperson told Focus, the publication of the Regulatory Affairs Professional Society, that the agency is looking to fill 709 positions as of the end of May.

On Monday, Gottlieb said the FDA’s first order of business when it comes to hiring will be to fill positions that will support its PDUFA (Prescription Drug User Fee Act) commitments. Gottlieb said too many of those positions are vacant and the backlog of those applications is “substantial.” Since taking over at the FDA, Gottlieb has called for increasing efficiency of the FDA’s generic drug review process and eliminating a backlog of generic applications. He has also called for improving the generic drug approval process.

“Finding the right people and bringing them on staff quickly has proved difficult. Our goals will be to speed the hiring process while improving the retention of scientific and technical experts. We’ll aim to reduce and eventually eliminate the backlog of vacant positions while demonstrating the utility of our new hiring model,” Gottlieb said. “All of these efforts will strengthen FDA’s core functions, enabling us to ensure that safe and effective advances can reach the patients who need them as efficiently as possible.”

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