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WASHINGTON — Almost immediately after beginning his Bethesda, Md., day job as the nation’s top cancer researcher, Ned Sharpless built a roughly 7-mile detour into his weekly routine: a sojourn to the Food and Drug Administration campus for a pickup basketball game.

Whether or not the networking was intentional, Sharpless will soon be spending far more time with the FDA oncologists who once broke his finger. When Scott Gottlieb steps down after a nearly two-year tenure next month, Sharpless will take the helm of that agency, at least in the short term.

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