Robert Califf

Robert Califf is an American cardiologist and a former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. He was nominated to be commissioner in September 2015 by President Barack Obama[1] and he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in February 2016,[2] serving until January 20, 2017. Prior to becoming commissioner he had served as the Deputy Commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration's Office of Medical Products and Tobacco since January 2015.[3][4][5]

Robert Califf
Robert Califf.jpg
22nd United States Commissioner of Food and Drugs
In office
February 22, 2016 – January 20, 2017
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byMargaret Hamburg
Succeeded byScott Gottlieb
Personal details
Born1951 (age 69–70)
Anderson, South Carolina, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materDuke University

Early lifeEdit

Califf was born in 1951 in Anderson, South Carolina.[6] He attended high school in Columbia, South Carolina where he was a member of the 1969 AAAA South Carolina Championship basketball team.[7][unreliable source?] He attended Duke University, graduating in 1973 summa cum laude,[3] and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.[7] In 1978, he graduated from the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina,[3] and was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society.[7] He left North Carolina only for an internal medicine residency at the University of California, San Francisco, and returned in 1980 to Duke to complete a fellowship in cardiology.[3] He is board-certified in internal medicine (1984) and cardiology (1986), and a Master of the American College of Cardiology (2006).[7]

Career at Duke University 1980-2015Edit

Califf was granted tenure as professor of cardiology at Duke University School of Medicine. He was the founding director of the Duke Clinical Research Institute, which is considered "the world’s largest academic research organization" with 1000 employees[3] and an annual budget of $320 million, 50-60% of which is funded from industry.[8]

Califf has led many clinical cardiology research studies, health outcomes research, health care quality, and translational research, which seeks to ensure that advances in science translate into medical care. He was a lead investigator in clinical trials testing the efficacy of the cholesterol-lowering drug combination ezetimibe/simvastatin.[9]

As of 2015 he was vice chancellor of clinical and translational research and the director of the Duke Translational Medicine Institute (DTMI). Califf is recognized by the Institute for Scientific Information as one of the top 10 most cited medical authors, with more than 1,200 peer-reviewed publications.[4]

Relationships with the pharmaceutical industryEdit

Califf worked very closely with pharmaceutical companies at the Duke clinical trials center "convincing them to do large, expensive, and, for Duke, profitable clinical trials."[10] He was a paid consultant for Merck Sharp & Dohme, Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, and Eli Lilly per ProPublica from 2009 to 2013. The largest consulting payment was $87,500 by Johnson & Johnson in 2012, and "most of funds for travel or consulting under $5,000", which has been called "minimal for a physician of his stature".[11] From 2013-2014 he was paid a total of $52,796, the highest amount was $6,450 from Merck Sharp & Dohme, followed by Amgen, F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Daiichi Sankyo, Sanofi-Aventis, Bristol-Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca.[12] He was the Director of Portola Pharmaceuticals, Inc. from July 2012 to January 26, 2015,[11] An advisor of Proventys, Inc., Chairman of the medical advisory board of Regado Biosciences, Inc. and has been a member of the medical advisory board since June 2, 2009, and a member of the clinical advisory board of Corgentech Inc.[13] Forbes wrote that his close ties to the drug industry were the reason for him not being nominated for the FDA Commissioner position in 2009.[10]

Career at the Food and Drug Administration, 2015Edit

In January 2015, Califf was appointed Deputy Commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration's Office of Medical Products and Tobacco, "second in scope only to being commissioner".[3][5] In February 2015, Califf was cited as a possible successor to Margaret Hamburg, the outgoing Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.[14] and in September 2015, President Barack Obama nominated him to be the next FDA commissioner.[1] In February 2016, the US Senate confirmed Califf as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration by a vote of 89-4. Dr. Califf stepped down from the post of FDA commissioner on January 20, 2017.[2]


He is a member of the Institute of Medicine (IOM). He was on the committees that recommended for example, Medicare coverage of clinical trials and to remove ephedra from the market, and the committee on identifying and preventing medication errors. As of 2015, he is member of the IOM Policy Committee and liaison to the Forum in Drug Discovery, Development, and Translation.

He served on the FDA Cardiorenal Advisory Panel and FDA Science Board's Subcommittee on Science and Technology.[4]


  1. ^ a b Tavernise, Sabrina (19 September 2015). "F.D.A. Nominee Califf's Ties to Drug Makers Worry Some". New York Times. Retrieved 19 September 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b "Califf Wins Senate Confirmation Vote on FDA Top Spot". Medscape. February 24, 2016. Retrieved 2016-02-24. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ a b c d e f Kroll, David (26 January 2015). "Duke's Rob Califf Named FDA Deputy Commissioner". Forbes. Retrieved 5 Feb 2015.
  4. ^ a b c "Dr. Robert Califf named FDA Deputy Commissioner for Medical Products and Tobacco" (Press release). Food and Drug Administration. 26 January 2015. Retrieved 5 Feb 2015.
  5. ^ a b Husten, Larry (26 January 2015). "Califf To Leave Duke To Become FDA Deputy Commissioner". Forbes. Retrieved 5 Feb 2015.
  6. ^ Califf, Robert (24 February 2009). "Robert Califf, M.D., Consultant for the ABC News OnCall+ Heart Disease Center". ABC News. Retrieved 5 February 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ a b c d Duke Faculty Webpage
  8. ^ Massimo Calabresi (19 February 2015). "Candidate to Lead FDA Has Close Ties to Big Pharma". Time Magazine. Retrieved 30 October 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ Kolata, Gina (17 November 2014). "Study Finds Alternative to Anti-Cholesterol Drug". New York Times. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  10. ^ a b Matthew Herper (16 September 2015). "Robert Califf Could Transform The FDA -- The Right Way". Forbes. Retrieved 30 October 2015. Califf was widely seen as too linked to industry. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ a b Matthew Herper (26 January 2015). "Yes I do think this means Robert Califf will be the next FDA Commissioner" (blog). Forbes Pharma/Healthcare. Retrieved 29 October 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  12. ^ "Robert Califf, from Aug. 2013 to Dec. 2014". Dollars for Docs. ProPublica. n.d. Retrieved 29 October 2015. Payments: At a Glance 42 payments $52,796 payment total, Rank: 23 out of 564 doctors in this specialty and state 10 companies paid this doctor. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  13. ^ "Executive Profile Robert M. Califf M.D". Bloomberg news. n.d. Retrieved 30 October 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  14. ^ Burton, Thomas (5 February 2015). "FDA Commissioner to Resign". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
Political offices
Preceded by
Margaret Hamburg
Commissioner of Food and Drugs
Succeeded by
Scott Gottlieb