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Former FDA commissioner to split time between Duke and Silicon Valley

Former FDA Commissioner Robert Califf—Trinity ‘73, School of Medicine ‘78 and the Donald F. Fortin, M.D. professor of cardiology in the School of Medicine—will assume new leadership positions at Duke and Alphabet Incorporated's Verily Life Sciences.

Califf, who served as commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from February 2016 to January 2017, was appointed vice chancellor for health data science at Duke Health. He will also serve as director of a cross-campus center focused on integrated health data science.

At Verily Life Sciences, formerly known as Google Life Sciences, Califf will join the senior management team on June 1 to help oversee Project Baseline, a longitudinal health study that is tracking 10,000 humans for at least four years. Califf will work to convert health-related data into practical applications to advance health. Verily is a subsidiary of Alphabet, which is also the parent company of Google.

“Although we are in the midst of an explosion of capability in the worlds of computing and information, we are still learning how to translate this capacity into better health and healthcare,” Califf wrote in a blog post for Verily. “Bridging this gap has been a recurring theme of my career, and it’s at the heart of what I hope to accomplish at both institutions.”

Califf returned to Duke in January after stepping down from his role at the FDA upon the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Since then, he has been involved with the Duke Clinical Research Institute, of which he is a founding member.

In addition to his roles at Duke and Verily, Califf received an appointment as an adjunct professor of medicine at Stanford University. Project Baseline is a collaboration between Verily, Duke and Stanford.

At Duke, Califf will direct a center focused on increasing collaboration within the campus, as well as improving Dukes’s network of evidence to guide clinical treatment.

“We are thrilled to welcome Rob Califf back to Duke in this important role, which will establish the university as a leader in a critical aspect of health care research and delivery and will build on his experience at the FDA,” wrote Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, in an email. “Rob has already been a transformational leader at Duke and we look forward to that happening again.”

In his blog post, Califf noted that the University offered him his “dream job” while he was considering taking a position at Verily. Califf will split his time evenly between that position, and his role at Duke.

“Both giant information companies and our country’s universities—particularly those with large health systems—have critical roles to play in ensuring that all Americans, and ultimately the entire world, benefit from new knowledge and technological capabilities,” he wrote.

Editor's Note: This article was updated on Tuesday at 3:45 p.m. with Schoenfeld's comments.


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