Verily is courting former FDA chief Robert Califf

Robert Califf
Robert Califf, who served as FDA commissioner for one year, could be on his way to a post at Verily.

Robert Califf, the FDA commissioner under President Barack Obama, is in talks with Verily for a leadership position, CNBC reported Tuesday.

The details are still being figured out and the talks might come up empty, said people familiar with the matter, CNBC reported. But it looks likely Califf will take a joint role at South San Francisco-based Verily and Stanford University.

Gaining Califf would be a boon for Verily. The news comes a week after Thomas Insel, who was leading Verily’s mental-health projects, left the company. Insel’s departure was just the latest in a series of high-profile departures, including that of Bill Maris, who led Google Ventures, and Vikram Bajaj, Verily’s former chief scientific officer who left for Grail, Illumina’s cancer liquid biopsy spinoff.

Califf, who took the FDA’s helm early last year, became the new chair of the nonprofit People-Centered Research Foundation after stepping down in January.

He previously served as the deputy FDA commissioner for medical products and tobacco, and was a founding director of the Duke Clinical Research Institute, a university-owned CRO, a position that put him in business with the world’s leading drugmakers. Califf would bring with him both industry and regulatory knowhow that could help Verily navigate its products to FDA approval.

Verily recently launched its Baseline study, which aims to better understand how health transitions to disease. The company will collect health data from more than 10,000 people over four years in collaboration with Stanford and Duke.

The company has partnerships with a number of industry players, including Galvani, a bioelectronics JV with GlaxoSmithKline, a miniaturized continuous glucose monitor with Dexcom and Onduo, a diabetes JV with Sanofi.