Trump Said to Be Considering University Alum Jim O’Neill for FDA Head

O’Neill would be the first alumnus to be appointed to a role in the Trump administration.

By Camille Kirsch

University of Chicago graduate Jim O’Neill (A.M. ’97) is reportedly under consideration to serve as the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under President-elect Donald Trump.

O’Neill, who is currently a managing director at Mithril Capital Management, served as a deputy secretary in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under George W. Bush. If appointed to the FDA, O’Neill would be its first head without a medical background since 1966.

O’Neill’s positions on drug regulation have drawn attention in the wake of reports that he is under consideration for the role. In a 2014 speech, O’Neill said that he believes the FDA should approve drugs for medical use as soon as they have been proven safe for human consumption, without requiring that the drugs first be shown to be effective.

Currently, such drugs can only be used under “expanded access” guidelines— also known as “compassionate use.” To qualify for expanded access, drugs generally must be intended to treat a life-threatening disease for which there is no other approved treatment.

In the same 2014 speech, O’Neill also said he believes the FDA should not have the authority to regulate certain medical testing companies. In a 2009 speech, he said that people in need of an organ transplant should be able to buy organs from others. He also said that under the American medical system, taxpayers are “forced to subsidize obesity.”

O’Neill is known for his association with Silicon Valley investor and entrepreneur Peter Thiel, who is a member of Trump’s transition team. O’Neill previously managed the Thiel Foundation and co-founded the 20 under 20 Thiel Fellowship, which pays college students a stipend to leave school and pursue entrepreneurship.