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Strauss Lecture: Head of FDA to Discuss Agency’s Role in Rsearch-based Medical Solutions

The United States is a powerhouse of invention for medicines and health care technology, yet in recent years, life expectancy here decreased and more than in peer countries, according to an April study. It’s now at a 25-year low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Robert Califf, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said his agency must play an integral role in reversing that trend by working closely with scientists.

Califf will discuss his vision for the FDA in a virtual talk, “The Role of Translational Science in Addressing the Decline in Health Status in the U.S: A Perspective from the FDA,” at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3. Join via Zoom to hear the talk, which is being presented by the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC.

“The agency’s long-term success requires collaborative, synergistic interaction across the biomedical, clinical, and public health communities to improve the translation of science into effective interventions,” Califf wrote in August in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “An evidence-driven system for clinical delivery that ensures reliable implementation of effective interventions across FDA-regulated products, including food, tobacco, drugs, biologics, devices, and other technologies, could result in substantial and equitable improvement in health and longevity of all people in the U.S.”

Califf, a member of the National Academy of Medicine, is the latest presenter in the Maury Strauss Distinguished Public Lecture Series. The series is supported by a gift from Maury Strauss, a longtime community benefactor and businessman in the Roanoke area.

“Dr. Califf has served two presidents as FDA commissioner and is a leading thinker on the importance of translational science for the benefit of human health,” said Michael Friedlander, executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and Virginia Tech’s vice president for health sciences and technology. “He’s a medical doctor whose career has spanned academia, policy and strategy roles in the health care industry, and the highest reaches of public health and national service. We are very fortunate to hear his thoughts on the value of the kind of biomedical and health research we do across Virginia Tech including at the research institute and with our partners at Carilion Clinic and the Children’s National Hospital.”

Califf, a cardiologist, served his first stint as FDA commissioner under President Barack Obama from 2016-17. He was appointed to the position again by President Joe Biden in early 2022. He has been a strong advocate for better clinical trials throughout his career.

He earned both his bachelor’s and medical degrees from Duke University, where he held numerous positions over three decades, including as the Donald F. Fortin, M.D., Distinguished Professor of Medicine for cardiology; director of the Duke Translational Medicine Institute; founding director of the Duke Clinical Research Institute; and vice chancellor for Clinical and Translational Research.

Califf has served on the Board of Scientific Counselors for the National Library of Medicine as well as on advisory committees for the National Cancer Institute, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Council of the National Institute on Aging.

In the private sector, Califf served as head of medical strategy and senior advisor at Alphabet Inc., contributing to strategy and policy for its health subsidiaries Verily Life Sciences and Google Health.

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