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What COVID-19 revealed about preventing pandemic influenza

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Engaging a Global Community of Thought Leaders

Meet the Experts & Innovators

Meet the global experts and innovators featured in our series capturing lessons from COVID-19 for the influenza vaccine R&D ecosystem.

Amesh Adalja

Senior Scholar, Center for Health Security, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

A board-certified physician in internal medicine, emergency medicine, infectious diseases and critical care medicine, Adalja continues to practice in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, where he grew up. At the same time, he has researched and advised widely on emerging infectious disease, pandemic preparedness, and biosecurity. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Adalja’s expertise was sought by organizations that included the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the International Monetary Fund, as well as by media outlets worldwide.

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Moses Alobo

Program Manager, African Academy of Sciences (AAS)

Alobo manages the Grand Challenges Africa Program, part of a global network of funding and research partnerships that in Africa seeks to promote Africa-led scientific innovations directed toward achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. He currently leads the AAS response to COVID-19, following years of experience supporting African development through locally relevant research, technology transfer, capacity strengthening and policy engagement.  Previously Alobo worked for pharmaceutical companies Glaxo Smith-Kline and for Hoffman La Roche, and for the Drugs for Neglected Disease Initiative.

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John Barry

Author; Distinguished Scholar, Bywater Institute at Tulane University and Adjunct Professor, Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine

After reading Barry’s book, The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History (2004), President George W. Bush launched the first U.S. effort in comprehensive pandemic planning—a pursuit that Barry has continued to advise at multiple governmental levels and through the response to COVID-19.  A historian whose research encompasses the causes and consequences of hurricane-induced flooding and biographies of Providence founder Roger Williams and former House Speaker Jim Wright, Barry has also served as an advisor to MIT’s Center for Engineering Systems Fundamentals and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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Alan Bernstein

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research

As leader of CIFAR, a global champion of cross-disciplinary scientific collaboration, Bernstein is an articulate advocate for the strategic application of AI in public health. CIFAR’s response to COVID-19 exemplifies these commitments as the organization advises the global community on the application of AI to stem the pandemic. CIFAR is also funding interdisciplinary, innovative, high-risk/high-reward projects applying AI to explore multiple aspects of COVID-19, including pathogenicity and transmission, accelerating vaccine development, and assessing its economic impacts.

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Kundai Chinyenze

Executive Medical Director for Clinical Development, International AIDS Vaccine Institute (IAVI), Kenya

Having risen from clinical research assistant through multiple roles at IAVI, Chinyenze brings to her leadership more than 18 years’ experience in clinical HIV/AIDS care, program management and HIV prevention research, as well as compelling life experience.  Most recently, as IAVI pivoted to address COVID-19, Chinyenze’s work expanded to support the development of vaccines and monoclonal antibodies, meanwhile maintaining focus on HIV and other infectious diseases.  Prior to joining IAVI, Chinyenze served as Medical Officer for the University of Zimbabwe-UCSF collaborative study in women’s health and for Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health.

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James Crowe

Professor, Vanderbilt University Medical Center; Director, Vanderbilt Vaccine Center

Crowe’s laboratory, noted for their work in viral immunology and antibody sciences, applies a broad array of techniques—including bioinformatics, electron microscopy and crystallography, computational modeling, and bioengineering approaches—to address an equally broad array of major human pathogens. Their basic science studies focus on the genetic origins and structural determinants of virus-neutralizing antibodies, and they lead the International Immunome Program, which aims to sequence every recombined human antibody and T cell receptor gene.

In addition to directing a dynamic team of researchers, Crowe has founded IDBiologics, Inc., an early-stage biotech company developing human monoclonal antibodies for infectious diseases. His pioneering work on the human monoclonal antibodies now being used to treat COVID-19 garnered Crowe a 2020 “Golden Goose” Award, which honors once-obscure, federally funded research that produces significant benefits to society.

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Ali Ellebedy

Associate Professor of Pathology and Immunology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis; Investigator, Sinai-Emory Multi-Institutional Collaborative Influenza Vaccine Innovation Center (SEM-CIVIC)

Ellebedy’s research focuses on immune B cells: defining the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate memory B cell heterogeneity and fate, and discovering pathways leading to broadly neutralizing B cell responses against rapidly evolving pathogens including influenza viruses, which represent potential routes to UIVs.  Their expertise also enabled the team to investigate the durability of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines—work that yielded the important and welcome news that the vaccines induce a persistent immune response mediated by germinal center B cells.  Prior investigations by the Ellebedy lab revealed long-lasting immune cells in people who had been infected by SARS-CoV-2.

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Harvey Fineberg headshot

Harvey Fineberg

President, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

A former president of the Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine), Fineberg is also board chair of the Science Philanthropy Alliance and co-chair of the Sabin-Aspen Vaccine Science & Policy Group.

In 2020, Fineberg assumed an additional chairmanship: leading the Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. Convened by request of the federal government in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the committee hosts discussions that inform national decision making on disease preparedness and response, explore lessons learned from previous efforts, identify best practices, and develop strategies for addressing misinformation.

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Julie Gerberding

Chief Patient Officer and Executive Vice President, Merck & Co.

In her role at Merck, Gerberding is responsible for a broad portfolio focused on patient engagement, strategic communications, global public policy, population health and corporate responsibility. She joined the company in 2010 as president of Merck vaccines.

Previously, Gerberding served as director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), leading the agency through more than 40 emergency responses to public health crises. The dozens of honors and awards she has received include the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) distinguished service award, for her leadership in the response to anthrax bioterrorism and to the September 11, 2001 attacks. Gerberding is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and a fellow of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the American College of Physicians.

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Swati Gupta

Vice President and Head of Emerging Infectious Diseases and Scientific Strategy, International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI)

As leader of IAVI’s Emerging Infectious Diseases product portfolio, Gupta looks to expand the organization’s product development efforts beyond HIV. She currently leads vaccine development efforts to address infectious diseases including Lassa fever and Marburg disease, as well as COVID-19.  In her previous positions at Merck, Gupta led research to support the development of infectious disease prevention and treatment products and pursued innovative partnership models to facilitate vaccine development in response to the West African Ebola outbreak in 2014-2016.

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Jonathan Heeney:

Professor of Comparative Pathology and Head, Laboratory of Viral Zoonotics (LVZ), University of Cambridge; CEO, DIOSynVax

Heeney’s study of animal viruses that cause human disease led him to establish the LVZ.  There, researchers employ a One Health approach to studies of host-pathogen evolution aimed at improving vaccines and therapeutics.  In 2017, Heeney founded the biotech company DIOSynVax to commercialize innovative antigen design technology developed at LVZ and apply it to creating next-generation vaccines that include both UIVs and a pan-coronavirus vaccine candidate, DIOS-CoVax2.

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Edward Holmes

Professor, University of Sydney, Australia

Known for his work on the evolution and emergence of RNA virus pathogens, Holmes was awarded the Australian Research Council’s five-year Australian Laureate Fellowship in 2017. He has studied the emergence and spread of viral diseases including COVID-19, influenza, dengue, HIV, hepitatis C, myxomatosis, rabbit hemorrhagic disease, and plague. Previously he held the Verne M. Willaman Chair in the Life Sciences at Pennsylvania State University and was an Affiliate Member of the Fogarty International Center (2005-2012) at the NIH.

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Benjamin Jones

Professor, Northwestern University

In addition to teaching entrepreneurship and strategy at Northwestern, Jones is Faculty Director at the university’s Kellogg Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative. He is also a non-resident senior fellow of the Brookings Institution, a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. During the Obama administration, Jones joined the White House Council of Economic Advisers; prior to that, he served in the Department of the Treasury. Jones’s research examining the roles of innovation and scientific progress in growing advanced economies has made him an advocate for public investment in innovative science.

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Jerome Kim

Director General, International Vaccine Institute (IVI)

A prominent voice in the global response to COVID-19, Kim speaks from extensive experience in vaccinology, which spans basic research through advanced clinical development. Before taking the helm at the IVI, a Seoul-based non-profit devoted to research on vaccine development and delivery for the developing world, Kim was Principal Deputy and Chief of the Laboratory of Molecular Virology and Pathogenesis for the U.S. Military HIV Research Program and led Phase III trials as a project manager for the U.S. Army. He serves on scientific advisory groups to several private and public organizations including the World Health Organization and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and as co-chair of the Strep A Vaccine Global Consortium (SAVAC).

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Teresa Lambe

Associate Professor, University of Oxford; Investigator, Jenner Institute

Lambe, who has led the UK’s immunological assessment of the Oxford-created COVID-19 vaccine developed in partnership with AstraZeneca, is an expert on viral vector vaccine design and evaluation. Her laboratory at Oxford’s Jenner Institute is developing vaccines against several emerging and re-emerging viral pathogens—including influenza—using the viral vector platform, as well as immunological assays to measure their effects in clinical trials.  When SARS-CoV-2 emerged, Lambe and coworkers quickly adapted a viral vector they had developed against a related coronavirus that causes Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) for delivery by what’s now commonly called “the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

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Warwick McKibbin

Vice Chancellor’s Chair in Public Policy and Director, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis (CAMA), Australian National University

Internationally renowned for his contributions to global economic modeling and the theory of monetary policy, McKibbin is a former member of the Australian Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council. He regularly serves as an advisor to institutions, central banks, governments and corporations across a range of developed and emerging economies on topics that include the economic consequences of pandemics. Responding to COVID-19, McKibbin’s research turned to modeling the impact of the pandemic by integrating epidemiological scenarios with macroeconomic outcomes, in order to support timely, strategic policymaking.

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Martha Nelson

Senior Biologist, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, U.S. National Institutes of Health

Nelson studies the evolution of novel pathogens through the lens of computational biology, employing a transdisciplinary approach that encompasses genomics, disease ecology, and veterinary science. Her recent work focuses on the important role of swine as a source of influenza viruses with pandemic potential, and on the challenges posed by viral evolution to the development of universal influenza vaccines.  Since early 2020, Nelson has also engaged in a personal response to the coronavirus pandemic by publishing COVID Blog, a source of practical guidance for daily life from “your friendly neighborhood epidemiologist.”

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Michael Osterholm

Director, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP)

At the University of Minnesota, home of CIDRAP, Osterholm wears many hats: he is also Regents Professor and McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Public Health, Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences in the School of Public Health, a professor in the Technological Leadership Institute in the College of Science and Engineering, and an adjunct professor in the Medical School.

In November 2020, Osterholm was appointed to the Biden-Harris Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board.

Osterholm is also co-author of the New York Times best-selling book, Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs (2017), which features a nine-point strategy to address infectious disease threats—beginning with preventing the next influenza pandemic.

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Daniel Perez

Professor, University of Georgia

An expert on avian influenza, virologist Perez conducts research that exemplifies the One Health approach. His goal: identifying and controlling viruses that threaten birds, the poultry industry and—in the event of spillover—human health, including pandemic disease. The Perez laboratory studies how influenza viruses jump animal species to cause disease in humans, information that contributes to producing better vaccines and antivirals. From 2005 to 2011, Perez led a USDA-funded, multi-institutional program aimed at preventing and controlling avian influenza in the US; since 2007, his laboratory has been part of the NIAID-funded Center for Research on Influenza Pathogenesis.

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Pardis Sabeti

Professor, Center for Systems Biology and Department of Organismic & Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University; Member, Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT

Sabeti is a leading member of a consortium of dozens of Boston-area researchers who are breaking down institutional barriers to expedite development of urgently needed diagnostic tools, treatments, and vaccines for COVID-19. Research in Sabeti’s lab includes designing novel CRISPR-based antivirals capable of treating diverse and mutable RNA viruses, including influenza. Adapting their techniques for CRISPR-based nucleic acid detection, the researchers recently provided assay designs suitable for COVID-19 surveillance.

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Stacey Schultz-Cherry

Faculty, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Recognized internationally for research on influenza pathogenesis and its transmission at the animal-human interface, Schultz-Cherry co-leads both the St Jude Center for Excellence in Influenza Research (CEIRS) and the NIAID-sponsored Center for Influenza Vaccine Research for High-Risk Populations. She also serves as deputy director of the St. Jude WHO Collaborating Center for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals and Birds.

Schultz-Cherry’s research interests include cellular and innate immune responses to viral infection, the role of obesity in viral pathogenesis, microbial-viral co-infections, and the discovery of novel vaccines and therapeutics against influenza and other viral pathogens.

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Pamela Silver

Pamela Silver Professor, Harvard Medical School Member; Harvard Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering

Silver’s influential and wide-ranging research has yielded important insights spanning synthetic, cellular and molecular biology.  Using a combination of synthetic biology and high throughput screening, her laboratory studies how viruses compromise the immune system, a line of inquiry which may lead to novel antiviral therapies.   Before becoming a founding member of Harvard’s Department of Systems Biology, Silver held positions at Princeton University and at The Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

Silver has served on numerous public and private advisory panels, including as a voting member of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, and on the editorial boards of multiple major scientific journals. The International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, which she founded to encourage young synthetic biologists, has evolved into the iGEM Foundation: an independent, non-profit organization that seeks to advance the field through open community and collaboration.

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Lynda Stuart

Deputy Director of Vaccines and Human Immunobiology, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Stuart leads a team focused on sourcing novel approaches and accelerating the discovery, development, and translation of new passive and active immunization strategies for diseases deemed priorities by the foundation. She remains actively involved in basic research.

Prior to joining the foundation in 2016, Stuart was a faculty member at the Massachusetts General Hospital and at Harvard Medical School.  There she co-directed the Laboratory of Developmental Immunology and was a member of the Center for Computational and Integrative Biology, an affiliate of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT.  She also served on the Massachusetts General Hospital Executive Committee for Research.

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Holden Thorp

Editor-in-Chief of Science family of journals

From his position at the helm of a preeminent scientific journal, Thorp has advocated tirelessly for a science-driven response to COVID-19—a message that has resonated far beyond his usual audience within the research community.

Thorp trained as an inorganic chemist, founded two biotech companies, and held multiple teaching and leadership positions in academia before taking the reins at Science.  In Engines of Innovation: The Entrepreneurial University in the Twenty-first Century, he and co-author Buck Goldstein champion the potential of research universities to address critical global challenges such as climate change and extreme poverty, while asserting that “virtually nothing important will get done in our great universities without the involvement of problem-based, multi-disciplinary teams.”

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Patrick Tippoo

Head of Science and Innovation, Biovac; Executive Director and founding member, African Vaccine Manufacturing Initiative (AVMI)

With more than 30 years’ experience in vaccine manufacturing, Tippoo strongly advocates for growing that industry—now a rarity—in Africa.  Wide-ranging responsibilities for business development at Biovac, a South African public-private partnership established in 2003, and service to the Developing Country Manufacturers’ Network (DCVMN) prepared him well for his leadership of AVMI.  In that role, Tippoo tirelessly has pursued his vision of an Africa that produces vaccines not only to meet its own needs, but those of the world.

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David Topham

Professor, University of Rochester Medical Center

Immunologist Topham’s leadership at URMC has extended across multiple disciplines, departments and programs.  Previously he directed both the New York Influenza Center of Excellence and the Respiratory Pathogens Research Center; currently he serves as Vice Provost and Executive Director of the Health Science Center for Computational Innovation, a partnership between the University and IBM, and as the Founding Director of the University of Rochester Translational Immunology and Infectious Disease Institute.

Topham’s laboratory simultaneously pursues basic research on influenza infection and immunity—including computational modeling of the immune system—and translational research on human immune responses to influenza and coronavirus infection and vaccination. Both efforts investigate mechanisms of immune protection provided by virus-specific B and T cells.

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Eric Topol

Founder and Director, The Scripps Research Translational Institute; Executive Vice President and Professor, Scripps Research

Throughout his career, Topol has championed the individualization of medicine through the use of genomic and digital tools.  A cardiologist by training, he previously led the Cleveland Clinic to prominence in heart care.  At Scripps, he leads a significant project within the NIAID-sponsored precision medicine effort, All of Us, as well as a $35 million NIH-funded effort to promote innovation in medicine.

Topol has also authored three highly regarded popular books on digital medicine, including most recently Deep Medicine: How Artificial Intelligence Can Make Healthcare Human Again (2019).  A review of his 2015 book, The Patient Will See You Now: The Future of Medicine Is in Your Hands, described him as “one of medicine’s most innovative thinkers about the digital future.”

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Rajeev Venkayya

President, Global Vaccine Business Unit, Takeda Pharmaceutical

Venkayya manages the development, manufacturing and commercialization of Takeda vaccines for dengue, norovirus and Zika.  He also serves on the boards of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Prior to joining Takeda, Venkayya served as Director of Vaccine Delivery at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program and was a board member of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Before that, as Special Assistant to the President for Biodefense during the George W. Bush administration, Venkayya coordinated national preparedness for bioterrorism and biological threats and was responsible for developing and implementing the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza.

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