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Trump Team Is Said to Consider Thiel Associate for FDA (Correct)

Wednesday, 07 Dec 2016 01:06 PM

(Bloomberg) -- President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team is considering a Silicon Valley investor close to billionaire Peter Thiel to head the Food and Drug Administration, according to people familiar with the matter.

Jim O’Neill, the Thiel associate, hasn’t been officially selected, according to the people, who asked to remain anonymous because the decision process is private, and the Trump team could still go in another direction.

O’Neill is a managing director at Thiel’s Mithril Capital Management, and last served in government during the George W. Bush administration as principal associate deputy secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services. He’s also a board member of the Seasteading Institute, a Thiel-backed venture to create new societies at sea, away from existing governments.

He would be an unconventional pick, since he doesn’t have a medical background. The head of the FDA for the last five decades has either been a trained physician or a prominent scientific researcher.

Spokesmen for Trump didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. O’Neill also didn’t respond to requests for comment.

O’Neill has been a close associate of Thiel for nearly a decade. He first served as a managing director at Clarium Capital -- Thiel’s hedge fund that made a mint by correctly predicting the housing bubble and then crumbled -- and since 2012 has worked at Thiel’s late-stage venture firm Mithril Capital Management, where he is a managing director. He also helped launch the Thiel Fellowship, which each year gives a small number of students $100,000 each to drop out of school and pursue entrepreneurial ideas.

Anti-Aging Medicine

In 2014, O’Neill gave a speech on aging medicine, saying that he believed it was “scientifically achievable” to develop drugs that would reverse aging, though the drug industry’s approach to the idea was “long overdue for innovation.”

The FDA has some of the government’s broadest regulatory authority. Responsible for food, drugs, medical devices, dietary supplements, cosmetics and tobacco, it touches many aspects of what Americans consume. It’s also a key part of the drug industry’s research efforts, responsible for overseeing clinical trials. In recent years, changes at the agency have been made to speed approval of new therapies in everything from cancer to hepatitis C.

Trump himself has offered few specifics on what he wants the FDA to do. His transition website says the administration will “reform the Food and Drug Administration, to put greater focus on the need of patients for new and innovative medical products” and advance research and development efforts in health care.

Drug Prices

Trump could also go after drug prices. Time magazine published an interview Wednesday in which Trump, whose victory last month was greeted with a surge in pharmaceutical stocks, said he he’ll “bring down drug prices.” The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index was down 4 percent at 11:40 a.m. in New York, after earlier falling 4.6 percent in the biggest intraday drop since June 24.

O’Neill did his undergraduate studies at Yale University, where he was a member of the concert band and played the horn, and has a masters degree from the University of Chicago, both in the humanities. He joined the Health and Human Services Department under Bush in 2002, first as a speechwriter, rising in the final years of the administration to head some policy functions, according to his resume on LinkedIn.

(Corrects word in quote in seventh paragraph.)

--With assistance from Lizette Chapman and Robert Langreth To contact the reporters on this story: Drew Armstrong in New York at darmstrong17@bloomberg.net, Jennifer Jacobs in Washington at jjacobs68@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Drew Armstrong at darmstrong17@bloomberg.net, Craig Gordon at cgordon39@bloomberg.net, Michael B. Marois

©2016 Bloomberg L.P.

© Copyright 2017 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

   
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2016-06-07
Wednesday, 07 Dec 2016 01:06 PM
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