This Former FDA Chief Is Heading To Silicon Valley To Join Alphabet's Life Sciences Division

Cardiologist and former FDA commissioner Robert Califf is joining both Verily and Duke University to work on projects using data science to improve health care.

Robert Califf, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner under President Obama, has revealed his next job — or, rather, jobs: He's becoming a top scientist at Verily, Alphabet's life sciences subsidiary, and an executive specializing in health data science at Duke University.

"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 on Verily's website on Wednesday. "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 served as FDA commissioner from early 2016 until January of this year. CNBC first reported news of his move to Verily, which comes a week after it saw a high-profile departure: Thomas Insel, former director of the National Institutes of Health's mental health division.

Prior to joining Verily, Califf helped design the Baseline Study, the company's attempt to identify biomarkers for healthy people, which launched this spring. At the time, Califf told Bloomberg that he harbored skepticism about tech companies' approach to reinventing medicine. “At times, Silicon Valley people are very naive about the complexity of health care,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot harder than they think.”

At Verily, Califf wrote in his blog post, "I’m hoping to offer insights that will allow the company to better tailor its technologies to meet the needs of doctors, other providers, health systems and the patients they serve, and to drive evidence-based approaches that will enable continuous learning and improvement."

Califf plans to split his time between Verily and Duke, where he will be vice chancellor for health data science of Duke University Health System and director of a new center focused on the same subject. A. Eugene Washington, CEO of Duke's hospitals system, said Califf's "lifelong pursuit of effectively applying clinical data to improving healthcare and population health uniquely qualifies him to lead these vitally important health data science endeavors at Duke."

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