MEDICAL RESEARCH

Head of FDA stepping down, chief scientist to take over

Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, listens during a House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on "The Fungal Meningitis Outbreak: Could It Have Been Prevented" at the Rayburn House Office Building in Capitol Hill.

Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, listens during a House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on "The Fungal Meningitis Outbreak: Could It Have Been Prevented" at the Rayburn House Office Building in Capitol Hill.  (Reuters)

Food and Drug Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told agency staffers Thursday she is resigning her post in March after six years in the position.

Hamburg told employees of the FDA in an email that the agency's chief scientist, Stephen Ostroff, will serve as acting commissioner.

She is among the longest-serving commissioners to head the agency and helped oversee the creation of a new food safety system, reforms in how drugs are reviewed and new tobacco regulations.

President Obama named Hamburg to the post in 2009, following a series of high-profile safety problems at the agency ranging from contaminated drugs to salmonella-tainted peppers to peanut butter that required one of the largest food recalls in U.S. history.

Before joining the FDA, Hamburg, 59, was primarily known as a bioterrorism expert who served as New York City health commissioner.