t seems increasingly likely that President Obama’s last Food and Drug Administration commissioner, Robert Califf, will be going to work for Google biotech spinoff Verily Life Sciences.

Califf let slip in a talk to health care journalists earlier this month that he was considering joining Google, but did not elaborate. Then CNBC reported Tuesday, citing sources “familiar with the matter,” that Califf is talking with Verily about a leadership role. The job could still fall through, but would apparently involve a joint position at the Alphabet subsidiary and nearby Stanford University.

There are a litany of reasons it would make sense for Verily to hire Califf.


He has long ties to Andrew Conrad, the Verily CEO, through their mutual work with Dole Food CEO and billionaire real estate tycoon David H. Murdock. Murdock installed Conrad, who once served on the boards of Dole and Murdock’s Castle & Cooke real estate company, as chief scientific adviser of the North Carolina Research Campus — a public-private research venture near Charlotte, N.C., established by Murdock in 2008.

Conrad used his scientific connections to recruit several leading academics to the facility, which conducts research on agriculture, food, nutrition, and health. The campus centerpiece is the nonprofit David H. Murdock Research Institute. Conrad enlisted Califf — then a top cardiologist at Duke University — to join that effort.

Murdock financed a precursor to Verily’s Baseline study. Conrad tagged Califf to run the project out of Duke until he left in 2015. That ongoing, detailed study of thousands of North Carolinians’ health was regarded as a forerunner for Baseline — Verily’s ambitious observational project to track a wide range of lab tests, biomarkers, and other health data for 10,000 people.

Duke and Stanford are Verily’s key collaborators on Baseline.

If Califf — a leading expert in clinical trial management and research — joins Verily and Stanford, he would bring a wealth of knowledge about how to conduct and manage large, data-intensive enterprises.

Califf, who was FDA commissioner during Obama’s last year in office, also would give Verily a deep understanding of the workings of the agency that could prove pivotal in Verily’s future efforts to turn its research into possible diagnostic products and treatments that will need FDA approval.

Megan Thielking contributed to this article.

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  • call me biased, but I would say, it is all about having an illustrious insider knowledge on how to lobby and game the system.

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