Califf joins Verily, to help the firm address the needs of doctors
With Scott Gottlieb confirmed as the new FDA commissioner, there was speculation about where his predecessor, Robert Califf, would end up. Yesterday that speculation ended with Dr. Robert Califf, former FDA commissioner, confirming that he will join Verily, Alphabet's health technology spinoff, a high-profile hire for a company trying to make inroads in the competitive healthcare market.
Califf said he will also continue his work at Duke Health, Duke University's health system, where he worked before joining the FDA in February 2016. His new title is vice chancellor for health data science.
On Monday, while giving a talk to the Coalition for Healthcare Communications, Califf told attendees that one of the things he was most excited about in healthcare is broad applications of information and computation. “Most people haven't grasped the way that processors can be combined,” he said. “Modern computing is about aggregating processors globally to solve problems and have the ability to help us better understand biology in a way that was not imaginable before.”
Califf was originally involved in Verily's Project Baseline, a 10,000-person study designed to develop a dataset of what good health looks like. He said he is also a friend of Verily CEO Andrew Conrad.
Verily changed its name from Google Life Sciences in 2015. Some of its projects include developing a continuous glucose monitor for people with diabetes and a smart contact lens it's working on with Alcon. Stat reported last year that a dozen top Verily managers, scientists, and engineers had left the company, suggesting that the reason for the exodus was “the challenge of working with CEO Andrew Conrad.”
Califf did not disclose his exact role in the blog post he wrote Verily's website but noted that he is “is hoping to offer insights that will allow the company to better tailors 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.”
The Duke University School of Medicine wrote in a news release that that his time will be “evenly split” between Duke and Verily. The same release stated that Califf will provide “guidance for transforming the growth in volume of health-related data into practical applications that will advance health and healthcare strategies and practice.”