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A female bioterrorism expert is to be be sworn in as the new head of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with a brief to direct development of a swine-flu vaccine.
Dr Margaret Hamburg, only the second woman to hold the post in 100 years, has been confirmed by the Senate after being chosen by President Barack Obama.
She has made clear that, swine flu aside, her first priority is to revamp food and drug safety procedures after the agency`s reputation was tarnished by a number of high-profile failures.
These include Vioxx, the painkiller that had to be withdrawn after it was shown to have serious heart risks. Meanwhile, failures in protecting the nation’s food supply led to the outbreak of a number of food-borne illnesses.
The FDA oversight portfolio represents a quarter of all consumer products, ranging from cancer drugs to peanut butter, meat to medical imaging machines.
Public health has been the cornerstone of Dr Hamburg’s professional career. The daughter of two doctors – her mother was the first black woman to earn a medical degree from Yale University – her background includes both African-American and Jewish heritage.
Copyright Press Association 2009