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Trump met with two Silicon Valley insiders who may join the FDA

The pair are both cozy with Trump booster and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.

The two tech investors tied to Peter Thiel met with president-elect Donald Trump on Thursday, and discussed, among other things, the possible future of the FDA.

Balaji Srinivasan, CEO of bitcoin start-up 21.co, and Jim O'Neill, the managing director of investment firm Mithril Capital Management, were both scheduled to meet with Trump Thursday afternoon. Both "are being considered for positions in the FDA," incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on a daily briefing call.

Srinivasan, also a partner at venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, is an expert in the subjects of digital payments and computational biology, and teaches at Stanford University. Srinivasan's expertise in health regulation stems back to a start-up he co-founded, Counsyl, which offers DNA screening, especially for people considering having children.

Srinivasan has openly criticized the FDA, saying that "big bad pharma does exist, but is only half the story. FDA sets the incentives."

O'Neill, who has previously been mentioned as a potential FDA pick, formerly advised top players at Heath and Human Services on drug and research investments. He's also been outspoken about the state of healthcare regulation, speaking on the issue of aging at a conference in 2014.


"The pharma industry's approach to aging certainly counts as long over due for innovation," O'Neill said, citing regulatory controls as an obstacle.

That viewpoint is not unlike that of Thiel, who reiterated to the New York Times this week: "Science is technology's older brother who has fallen on hard times ... I have some strong opinions on this. At the F.D.A. today, aging is still not an indication for disease. And you're not allowed to develop drugs that could stop aging. We have not even started yet."

Thiel, PayPal co-founder, libertarian and Trump transition team member, has relationships with both Srinivasan and O'Neill. Srinivasan's 21.co is backed by Thiel, and Thiel is the co-founder and chair at Mithril. O'Neill previously ran the Thiel Foundation.

"Jim O'Neill has extensive experience in government and in Silicon Valley. He is a strong candidate for any of several key positions," a spokesman for Thiel told CNBC in December.

O'Neill and Srinivasan aren't the first Thiel darlings to appear before Trump: Alex Karp, CEO of Thiel's cybersecurity company Palantir, has also attended meetings. Trae Stephens, a principal at Thiel's Founders Fund, which has invested in Palantir, and a former Palantir employee himself, has also been tapped for the transition team working on defense, according to Bloomberg.

Trump transition team's code of ethics requires Thiel disqualify himself from involvement in any particular transition matter which may directly conflict with a financial interest, and address any appearance of a conflict with the general counsel. A spokesperson for Thiel previously declined to say whether he had signed the agreement.

Transforming healthcare will be a top priority for the incoming administration: Trump said he would stop the industry from "getting away with murder" in his first post-election press conference this week.