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Ally of former NJOY investor poised to take over at FDA

Ally of former NJOY investor poised to take over at FDA

In what could be a pivotal appointment for the vaping industry, an associate of Peter Thiel, who invested in vape product pioneers NJOY and is a close confidante of President-elect Donald Trump, is poised to take over from Robert Califf as head of the US Food and Drug Association, according to multiple sources.

Jim O’Neill, the Thiel associate, hasn’t been officially selected, and the Trump team could still go in another direction, but there are strong indications that he is a leading candidate for the FDA job.

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 is known to hold libertarian views and believe that FDA drug-approval processes are too laborious.

Thiel seems to be backing his man. His spokesman told Bloomberg that O’Neill “has extensive experience in government and in Silicon Valley. He is a strong candidate for any of several key positions”. 

Thiel himself was an early stage investor in NJOY along with Sean Parker and Bruno Mars. The pioneering vaping company effectively founded the modern vaping industry through its successful suit against the FDA, known as the Sottera case. NJOY recently filed for bankruptcy protection.

Peter Beckett is MD of Beckett Associates