Former FDA commissioner to head Alphabet’s health strategy

Google’s parent company has made a high-profile hire by naming Robert Califf, MD, to head its medical strategy and policy for Google Health and Verily. Califf is the former commissioner and the FDA and was most currently serving as vice chancellor for data sciences for Duke Health and director of Duke Forge and Donald F. Fortin, M.D. professor of cardiology.

He will assume his new role Nov. 18, 2019. According to Duke University, which published a blog post with the personnel change, Califf was a founding director of the world’s largest academic research organization, the Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI). He also served as vice chancellor for clinical and translational research at Auke and as director of the Duke Translational Medicine Institute before becoming deputy commissioner for medical products and tobacco and then FDA commissioner.

Verily, the life sciences unit of Google, has been making headlines recently with its launch into the AI space with a screening program designed for eye disease, as well as news of its clinical trial partnerships within the pharma space. It has also teamed up with Walgreens to treat patients with chronic conditions.

Califf, who returned to Duke in 2017, will remain as an adjunct professor with the university in the School of Medicine.

“This is bittersweet,” Califf said in the blog post from Duke. “It’s been 50 years since I arrived at Duke. All but four of those years, I have spent here. Lydia and I have made great friends, and together with Duke colleagues we’ve made real progress in our quest to improve lives. Duke University has an incredibly bright future, and I am proud to always call it home.”