National Cancer Institute Director Norman “Ned” Sharpless will become acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, succeeding Scott Gottlieb who is leaving next month, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told Congress Tuesday.

Sharpless, 52, an accomplished researcher, oncologist and administrator, has been director of the cancer institute for about 18 months, earning good reviews from cancer advocates, patient groups and academic researchers.

Sharpless has had a cordial relationship with Gottlieb, who supported his appointment to the FDA job. And he has become a regular player in evening basketball games arranged by FDA officials. Gottlieb announced last week he was resigning to spend more time with his wife and three young children who live in Connecticut.

Part of Sharpless’s appeal is that he could start at the FDA relatively quickly. It’s also possible he would be nominated as permanent commissioner later. He has never been confirmed by the Senate — which isn’t required for the NCI post or acting head of the FDA. But as a presidential appointee, he has been extensively vetted and has divested himself of financial holdings that could pose conflicts of interest. [Read More @ The Washington Post]