Former FDA head returns for roles at Duke University, Duke Health System

Dr. Robert Califf during a congressional hearing.
Dr. Robert Califf during a congressional hearing. AP

The former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has returned to Duke University where he will lead a health data science initiative, as well as taking on a job in the private sector.

Dr. Robert M. Califf was head of the FDA under former President Barack Obama. He stepped down in January after two years. Previously he had spent his career in leadership positions at Duke’s medical school and health system. He is a founder of the Duke Clinical Research Institute, one of the world’s largest clinical research organizations.

Califf will become vice chancellor for Health Data Science at Duke Health and director of a newly created center focused on integrated health data science. On June 1, he’ll also join the senior management team for Verily Life Sciences, formerly Google Life Sciences and now an Alphabet Inc. company.

The new center will create campus collaborations focused on research and innovation, while promoting Duke in Silicon Valley and other areas where data science and health care are converging.

“We are most fortunate that Dr. Califf will invest his considerable expertise and energy to build a university-wide center that coalesces data science expertise and health data resources from across the campus for the improvement of human health,” Duke Provost Sally Kornbluth said in the university’s announcement Wednesday. “I believe his commitment to this vision has the potential to create a unique engine for better understanding human health and disease.”

At Verily, Califf will work to advance practical applications for health data.

“Although we are in the midst of an explosion of capability in the worlds of computing and information, we have not yet learned how to effectively translate this capacity into better health and health care,” Califf wrote in a blog post announcing the new positions. “Bridging this gap has been a recurring theme throughout my career, and it’s at the heart of what I’m hoping to accomplish at both institutions.”

Jane Stancill: 919-829-4559, @janestancill