Michael J. Rosenberg, Innovator in Clinical Research, Dies at 66

Published on: 

Applied Clinical Trials

Michael J. Rosenberg died on December 8 in an accident while en route to a meeting at the Food and Drug Administration.

Michael J. Rosenberg, a physician and entrepreneur honored for innovations that speed availability of improved medicines and medical devices to patients with unmet medical needs, died on December 8 in an accident while en route to a meeting at the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Rosenberg was 66 years of age.

Dr. Rosenberg received the 2014 Award for Innovation in Clinical Research from the Association of Clinical Research Professionals, the world’s largest organization for clinical researchers. A letter of support for Dr. Rosenberg’s nomination stated, “If I gave an award for innovation, I would certainly give one to Michael. The industry clearly needs to follow his lead ...”

John Cline, vice president of client services for Cenduit, a Durham, North Carolina, technology company that works with pharmaceutical companies and contract research organizations such as Health Decisions, called Rosenberg “a visionary” in the industry.
“The industry has lost a true visionary,” said Elke Voss, participant in a large LinkedIn discussion group on clinical research hosted by MAGI – Clinical Research Best Practices.

Dr. Rosenberg was an adjunct professor at the Gillings School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Don Holzworth, executive in residence at the school, commented,“It’s a loss for the business community in the Triangle, for sure. He created a lot of jobs and invested in the community.” Holzworth went on to say, “Michael was a private person, but extremely intelligent, well-respected,” with both an academic and a business mindset.

Dr. Rosenberg was the author of more than 200 articles in medical journals and industry publications. James E. Higgins, Health Decisions Executive Vice President and Director of Biometrics, notes that one of Dr. Rosenberg’s articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association “introduced an example of an elegantly designed study executed in Thailand which provided one of the first examples of how to do research into the effects of contraceptives in prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.” Dr. Rosenberg’s book, The Agile Approach to Adaptive Research: Optimizing Efficiency in Clinical Development (Wiley 2010), received awards from the Journal for Clinical Studies and the Journal of Clinical Research Best Practices.

In 2014, Dr. Rosenberg was honored by the Triangle Business Journal as Life Sciences CEO of the Year and separately as CIO of the Year. In 2013, Health Decisions was named to the CIO 100 by the leading global IT magazine, CIO, for “utilizing technology to create true business value.” Also in 2013, Triangle Business Journal named Dr. Rosenberg a Health Care Hero Innovator/Researcher.

Dr. Rosenberg’s entrepreneurship and creativity extended beyond the field of clinical research. As a real estate developer in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Dr. Rosenberg created a new mixed-use building that, in the words of a member of the town council, “sets a new aesthetic standard, even for Chapel Hill.”

Dr. Rosenberg founded Health Decisions, a Clinical Research Organization, in 1989 and led the company until his death. Health Decisions, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2014, conducted more than 300 clinical trials of new drugs and medical devices under Dr. Rosenberg’s leadership. Dr. Rosenberg not only served as Chief Executive Officer of Health Decisions, but also played a leading role in strategic planning of clinical development programs, protocol design and scientific publications.
From 1996 to present, Dr. Rosenberg served as Co-Principal Investigator of Health Decisions in its role as Statistical and Clinical Coordinating Center for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, a unit of the National Institutes of Health.

Born on April 29, 1948, in Pasadena, California, Dr. Rosenberg grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and completed his undergraduate degree at the University of California, Berkeley. He went on to receive his MD from the University of California Medical School, Davis, in 1975 and an MPH degree in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from the Harvard School of Public Health in 1978. Dr. Rosenberg completed his residency at Mt. Auburn Hospital and became Chief, Reproductive Health Activity at the Centers for Disease Control in 1981; Director, Reproductive Epidemiology Division at Family Health International in 1983; and Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the American Social Health Association in 1986.

“Michael embraced life with vigor and a sense of humor,” said Dr. Rosenberg’s sister, Majorie Devon. “We will remember him as a playful, generous and compassionate man who cared deeply for social causes and the people around him.” Dr. Rosenberg was an avid and experienced pilot with over 4,500 hours of flight time, Airline Transport Pilot and Flight Instructor certificates, and ratings in the L39 and Phenom 100 jets. Among other interests, Dr. Rosenberg played the guitar, performing at least once recreationally in a Durham, North Carolina club. Dr. Rosenberg often brought his dog, a golden doodle named Sage, to work. Dr. Rosenberg took Sage on lunchtime romps that entertained passers-by outside Health Decisions headquarters in Durham, North Carolina. Dr. Rosenberg could be heard calling out, “Sage, you big happy dog!”

Dr. Rosenberg is survived by his wife, Alicia Paladin and four stepchildren; his children, Zachary and Caroline Rosenberg; his father, Allan J. Rosenberg and his wife, Jeanne Kennedy; his siblings, Marjorie Devon, Kenneth Rosenberg, and Nancy Yeomans and her husband Rick; many nieces and nephews; and by his beloved dog Sage.

A celebration of Dr. Rosenberg’s life will be held Saturday January 3 at 4 p.m., at Castalia at Meadowmont, 301 W. Barbee Chapel Road, in Chapel Hill. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to his favorite organizations, Planned Parenthood, Kramden Institute, or National Public Radio