Russell J. Abbott (1943-still living)

Russell J. Abbott was born in Fort Riley, Kansas but his family then moved to Virginia. He attended Virginia Tech for his BA degree, graduating in 1965.

His parents and brother worked at the CIA, so he started there after college too. He received his MBA in 1970 from American University, and then took a job with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In 1972, Abbott was part of the FDA Planning, Evaluation, and Financial Management Staff. He had the difficult job of transitioning the Division of Biologics Standards (DBS) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to the FDA. There were some major issues for him to deal with in the transition. There was tension and possible conflict of interest between the two roles played by DBS employees: scientists and regulators. Many of the NIH biologics staff thought of themselves as bench scientists first and regulators second and did not want to leave the NIH. There were also not very many administrative positions in DBS when it was still with the NIH but they had to be consolidated with the FDA positions.

Biologics at the FDA again went through several administrative and organizational changes in the 1980s, including the combining of the roles of drug and biologics regulation together into one organization, and then separating them apart again into the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) and the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). When drugs and biologics were combined, there were two of every administrative position and Abbott had the difficult job of deciding who would be in charge. Everyone was upset. Abbott was the head of the Office of Management for the National Center of Drugs and Biologics in the mid-1980s. The Office of Management included the Divisions of Planning and Evaluation, Administrative Management, and Drug Information Resources. Ultimately, drugs and biologics were separated again in 1988, and biologics have remained in CBER ever since.

a photo of Russell J. Abbott with Edward Brandt in running clothes after a race. Taken from the FDA Today 1983 paper

Russell Abbott, an avid runner and regular participant in the FDA’s annual race, at left, with Edward M. Brandt, Jr. at right, after the Parklawn Five Mile Classic race on April 29, 1983 (from FDA Today 1983).  FDA History Office
Throughout his career, Abbott was the recipient of numerous awards including an FDA Commendable Service Award, the FDA Commissioner's Special Citation, the FDA Award of Merit, and Equal Opportunity Awards from the FDA and from the Public Health Service.

Abbott retired as the deputy commissioner for administration in the FDA Office of the Commissioner.

Abbott worked in Building 29, Room 102, and in Room 104 by 1980. He later worked in the FDA Woodmont Building, located in Rockville, by 1990, as the director of the CBER Office of Management.

Oral History