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Obama Picks FDA Chief

U.S. President Barack Obama's choice to head the Food and Drug Administration, Margaret Hamburg, is a well-known bioterrorism expert with years of experience in public health.

The 53-year-old doctor is currently a senior scientist at the Nuclear Threat Initiative in Washington, which seeks to reduce the threat of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

In 1991, at age 36, Hamburg became the youngest-ever health commissioner in New York City. She spent six years in the position, setting up programs which succeeded in reducing tuberculosis rates and increasing childhood immunizations.

Hamburg was also the assistant director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, and later served as an assistant health secretary under former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

If confirmed by the Senate, Hamburg will take over the FDA at a tough time. The food and drug safety agency has been plagued by criticism recently in the face of a deadly salmonella outbreak from peanut products.

President Obama announced Hamburg's nomination in his weekly address Saturday. He said problems with the FDA will be resolved under her leadership.

Mr. Obama said he has chosen Joshua Sharfstein, the current health commissioner in the city of Baltimore, in the eastern state of Maryland to be Hamburg's deputy.

Sharfstein is a pediatrician who has challenged the FDA on the safety of over-the-counter medicines for children. He also served as a health policy aide to Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman, who plays a leading role in overseeing the pharmaceutical industry.

Unlike Hamburg, Sharfstein does not need Senate confirmation.

Some information for this report was provided by Bloomberg, AP and Reuters.