The acting Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration has issued his first communication in the post and asked for support from the US Congress, academia and pharmaceutical companies.

Frank Torti, the agency’s chief scientist and principal deputy commissioner who was named as acting FDA Commissioner last week, said that the job is arguably more difficult than the permanent position but “the work at FDA must be neither tentative nor delayed”. He added that “we must steer the agency with continued energy, enthusiasm and insight”.

Addressing consumers, Dr Torti said that the FDA needs to “earn your respect and trust, and further build a reputation for rock solid integrity, accuracy and transparency”. He went on to say that “for many issues of risk, science does not give us all the answers. When we do not yet know the answers, the FDA will be honest and forthcoming about our uncertainty”.

To members of Congress “and others who oversee our agency”, he said that “we need your partnership to reshape the agency and to provide us with the resources and legislative authorities necessary to support our work”. As for the academic community and other medical and scientific professionals, “we want to engage you to a much greater extent than before to help us tackle the difficult scientific problems that underpin FDA regulation”.

Addressing the drugmakers themselves, he said that “we acknowledge and respect the creativity and imagination involved in the development of your products…and we promise you that our deliberations will be completed with respect, diligence and speed, but always remembering the old, but wise admonition of Hippocrates, to first do no harm”.

Speaking to his colleagues at the FDA, Dr Torti said that “we must continue to develop an environment in which scientific discourse and at times disagreement is accepted and respected, where politics has no standing in regulatory decisions, and where excellence is rewarded”. He added that “we must be open to criticism, willing to change, and apply our decisions with humility and courtesy”.

How long Dr Torti continues in the post remains to be seen as the Obama Administration could well go for another candidate.