Verily makes smart move by hiring ex-FDA chief

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Dive Brief:

  • Verily Life Sciences, the life sciences and healthcare subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet, and Duke University, have snagged former Food and Drug Administration chief Robert Califf, according to a post on Verily's blog.
  • While the exact role is undisclosed, Califf talks about his interest in information technology and his desire to bridge the gap between healthcare, computing and information.
  • Califf was Commissioner of the FDA from February 2016 to January 2017 under President Barack Obama. Scott Gottlieb was recently sworn in as the new agency head to take Califf's place. 

Dive Insight:

Verily Life Sciences, previously Google Life Sciences, and sister company to the tech giant Google, has historically kept itself pretty much under the radar since its founding in 2015, but tapping industry heavyweight Califf adds a bit of gravity to the company as a biotech. 

Califf brings with him a deep understanding of the regulatory process and agency, as well as strong connections within the industry. 

"After concluding what has been an amazing experience as FDA Commissioner, I’m excited to turn to a new career with Verily and Duke University," said Robert Califf on Verily's blog.

Califf has known Verily CEO Andy Conrad since 2004, and worked with him on the data-driven healthcare program Project Baseline, a longitudinal study that aims to capture "baseline" data from around 10,000 people to understand more about the transition from health to disease. Post-FDA the data has evidently drawn Califf back. Not much has been disclosed about his role, however, other than that it will involve offering insights to tailor technologies to healthcare professionals, providers and health systems.

Verily won't be a full time role evidently, as Califf has also been offered his "dream job to match the Verily component" at Duke University. He sees the balance between business and healthcare as important: "Because I believe that the primary problem facing the healthcare enterprise is cultural, it also seemed appropriate that I keep one foot planted in a university-based integrated health system… At Duke, I will work to leverage the actionable data science produced by its deep bench of quantitative talent and clinical and operational experts to improve health and healthcare."

Towards the back end of last year, Verily was involved in a flurry of deals, including 3M, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi, but things have been quieter since then.

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