Last Tuesday, the GAVI Alliance Board announced that, after an international search, it has appointed Dr. Seth Berkley as its new Chief Executive Officer. Dr. Berkley, a renowned medical epidemiologist and experienced advocate for global health and immunization, is best known for his work as the president and CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), which he founded in 1996. Since its inception, the organization has made significant strides towards finding a more permanent solution to combat AIDS. Under his effective leadership, IAVI has mobilized over US $800 million in resources for AIDS vaccine research and development and has furthermore implemented a global advocacy agenda that has kept vaccines in the spotlight over the years.
When I came to Johns Hopkins in 2003 and started the PneumoADIP project (a progenitor of IVAC), Seth was one of the very first people I sought out for advice. Over a breakfast near his home in Tribeca, he answered a slew of questions and provided valuable and wise advice. A long-time champion for vaccines and global health, Seth will certainly bring a wealth of valuable experience with him to GAVI.
Before establishing IAVI, he was an officer of the Health Sciences Division at The Rockefeller Foundation where he managed programs on vaccines, AIDS, reproductive health and public health training in Africa, Asia and Latin America. He has also worked as an EIS officer at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), then at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and the Task Force for Child Survival at the Carter Center, where he served as the Ministry of Health Epidemiologist in Uganda.
I doubt you’ll find anywhere an epidemiologist more visible than Seth Berkley. For his innovation and drive, he has been featured in Newsweek and Wired magazine. In 2009, he was also recognized by TIME magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.”
But he’s more than just a beautiful mind. While now happily married with kids, in 2001, Dr. Berkley was featured in People magazine as one of its 50 most eligible bachelors (along with Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and others). You can catch a glimpse of his charisma and communications skills in his TED talk on influenza and HIV vaccines.
On behalf of myself and IVAC, we are looking forward to working with Seth in his new role and helping him to make good on GAVI’s mission – one we share at IVAC – to assure access for vaccines to everyone who needs them, everywhere they need them.
Dr. Orin Levine is the Executive Director of the International Vaccine Access Center