Our History

From landmark global clinical trials to innovative approaches to research delivery, the DCRI has been leading the way forward and shaping the future of clinical research for decades.

A History of Innovation

Man at computer

DCRI’s legacy of innovation and impact dates back to 1969 with the Duke Databank for Cardiovascular Disease (DDCD), which ushered in what was at the time a novel, computer-assisted, data-driven approach to generating evidence for cardiovascular clinical research studies. The Databank was the result of an idea of then-Chairman of Medicine Eugene A. Stead, Jr., MD, who led a research group within the Duke University Medical Center that also included C. Frank Starmer, MD, and Paul Elliott.

Today, the DDCD is the world’s oldest and largest cardiovascular database, containing data about both invasive cardiac procedures and noninvasive diagnostic procedures performed at Duke. Since the DDCD is continuously maintained, it has enabled DCRI faculty and staff to gain extensive experience with a long-term follow-up system, including ascertainment of hospital records.

The DDCD was officially created from the original Databank group in 1976. Before the founding of the Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI) in 1996, the DDCD made significant contributions to the field of clinical research, including:

  • 1984: Created the first electronic electrocardiogram (eECG) core laboratory
  • 1986: Completed its first multicenter trial (TAMI-1)
  • 1993: Completed its first international trial (GUSTO-I), the largest comparative thrombolytic trial in history at the time

Since its formal creation in 1996, DCRI faculty and staff have made immense contributions to advancing clinical research and care. Search our publications database or view select trials and registries. Along the way, we have celebrated significant milestones in our history, including:


  • Became a founding member of the Clinical Data Interchange Standards Consortium (CDISC)


  • Duke University and the FDA co-founded the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative (CTTI), a public-private partnership designed to create new solutions for better, more efficient clinical trials; DCRI serves as the host of CTTI


  • Received a $95 million NIH grant over 7 years for the Pediatric Trials Network (PTN); grant was renewed in 2018; to date, the PTN has contributed to label changes for 15 drugs


  • Announced ARISTOTLE results—Apixaban safer and more effective than warfarin—later, this study was named to Drazen’s Dozen as one of 12 studies that has most changed clinical practice since 2000


  • Received a $9 million grant to serve as the coordinating center for the NIH’s Health Care Systems Research Collaboratory


  • Received a $62 million grant to form a national leadership group focused on antibacterial resistance (ARLG)


  • Robert Califf, MD, DCRI’s founding director, nominated to be FDA commissioner
  • Was awarded the first PCORnet demonstration study, ADAPTABLE, which aims to determine the best aspirin dose to protect patients with heart disease


  • Was named coordinating center as part of a $157 million federal initiative aimed at studying how environmental factors affect childhood health (ECHO)


  • Launched the Project Baseline study, a partnership between DCRI, Stanford Medicine and Verily Life Sciences, in order to expand the understanding of the journey from health to disease in 10,000 participants


  • Received a $50 million PCORI grant for the Healthcare Worker Exposure Response and Outcomes (HERO) research program and received a $80 million NIH grant for RADx-UP, both research programs that will study the prevention and testing of COVID-19, respectively; DCRI is Duke University’s top awardee for federal COVID-19 research funding
  • FDA announced its first-ever approval for a video game that can be marketed and prescribed as a therapeutic; the DCRI conducted the two randomized clinical trials to evaluate the treatment
  • Launched DCRI’s first direct-to-family, decentralized clinical trial, iPERSONAL

Celebrating 25 Years of Improving Health Around the World

Formally founded in 1996, the DCRI followed in the footsteps of Duke pioneers who envisioned novel ways to learn about health and health care. An enduring spirit of innovation has enabled the institute to affect change in most every aspect of clinical research and realize our mission to improve health around the world.

25th anniversary logo


DCRI's Executive Directors

Since DCRI’s inception, preeminent Duke University School of Medicine faculty members have served as our executive directors, guiding the Institute’s leadership in the clinical research field:

Robert Califf, MD
DCRI Executive Director

Robert Harrington, MD
DCRI Executive Director

Eric Peterson, MD, MPH
DCRI Executive Director

Lesley Curtis, PhD
DCRI Interim Executive Director

Adrian Hernandez, MD, MHS
DCRI Executive Director

Explore the rest of DCRI’s leadership team or learn more about our current faculty.

Rob Califf

“It seems like only yesterday that we were first imagining what could be accomplished if we organized an entity … that was purposefully designed to enable faculty in leading and conducting multisite clinical research in concert with remarkably creative staff professionals."
– Rob Califf, MD
DCRI's founding Executive Director