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Scientific Advisory Group

In June 2014, icddr,b’s Board of Trustees convened a world-class Scientific Advisory Group (SAG).

The purpose of the SAG is to: build capacity in the training and mentorship of young scientists on their career pathways; increase the involvement of international scientists on site at icddr,b; increase partnership opportunities with other world-class organisations; increase icddr,b’s ability to undertake research outside of Bangladesh, and align icddr,b’s research focus with our research priorities.

Professor Jan Holmgren from University of Gothenburg, Sweden, is the chair of the advisory group.


Infectious diseases and immunology experts

Prof. Ann-Mari Svennerholm is a professor in Infections and Immunity at University of Gothenburg, Sweden. She has had numerous commissions at the university, e.g. as vice rector for several years. She has devoted most of her research to development of vaccines against enteric infections, i.e. cholera, diarrhoea caused by enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC) and Helicobacter pylori. She has, together with Professor Jan Holmgren, developed the oral cholera vaccine, Dukoral®. She has served on numerous national and international boards in the field of infections, vaccines and global health, e.g. the Swedish Research Council, the Foundation for Technology transfer between University and Industry, the Swedish Institute of Infectious Disease control in Sweden. She has been the chair for the WHO Diarrhoeal and Enteric Vaccines Advisory Committee, DEVAC, and the Norwegian Research Council program for global health and vaccines, GLOBVAC, during several years. She has also been a member of the boards of the International Vaccine Institute (IVI) in Korea. She has published more than 400 original papers and review articles in the field of enteric infections and vaccines.

Prof. Dougan is currently Head of Pathogen Research and a member of the Board of Management at The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (WTSI) in Cambridge, United Kingdom. He is also an Honorary Professor at Cambridge University and a Fellow of Wolfson College. His personal research team studies enteric pathogens with a strong emphasis on basic pathogenic mechanisms and immunology and he contributes to the Mouse Genetic Programme running an infection screen in novel gene KO strains. He has a particular interest in using genomics to study host/pathogens interactions, in particular using Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi, the cause of typhoid, as a model. He has extensive experience working both in industry and in academia. Before moving to the WTSI he was the Director of the Centre for Molecular Microbiology and Infection at the Imperial College London and a Professor of Physiological Biochemistry. There he was responsible for securing multi-million pound funding for a new building in Kensington and providing infrastructure for the science.

Throughout his career Gordon has served as a referee, advisor and consultant for numerous respected institutions, universities, boards, committees and other organizations. He was a Trustee of the International Vaccine Institute in Korea and has worked with other global agencies including WHO and GAVI. He was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2002. He is a member of EMBO and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 2012. He graduated with a degree and received his Ph.D. from the University of Sussex. He conducted postdoctoral studies at the University of Washington (Seattle) in the laboratory of Stanley Falkow. He worked for over ten years in industry developing vaccines and novel drugs at an internationally renowned multinational company. He has participated in early and late clinical studies on several vaccines. He is an expert in vaccinology/pathogenic mechanisms, specialising on the immunology of mucosal vaccines and molecular basis of infection. He is currently Chair of the Novartis Vaccines & Diagnostics SAB and has spun out a number of companies. He has published over 400 research papers, edited several books and has sat on the editorial boards of a number of prestigious journals.

Dr G. Balakrish Nair is the Executive Director of the Translational Health Science Technology Institute, a newly founded autonomous Institute of the Department of Biotechnology in Gurgaon, Harayana. He took up this position in October, 2011. He was formerly the Director of the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED), Kolkata, India. He joined NICED in 1981 and worked there till April, 2000 after which he took up a 7 year assignment at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Diseases in Dhaka, Bangladesh as the Director of Laboratory Sciences Division. Dr. Nair’s research is on enteric pathogens with particular emphasis on Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of the disease cholera. He is a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, India, Fellow of the Indian National Academy of Sciences, Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences, Fellow of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing Nations (Italy), Fellow of the American Association of Microbiologists and Fellow of the German Academy of Sciences (Leopoldina). Among other awards, Dr. Nair received the prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar award for Medical Sciences in 1998 for his contributions to the discovery of Vibrio cholerae O139 Bengal. Under his supervision, 29 students have obtained doctoral degrees. He is the author of over 500 research papers.

Prof. Ian Gust A.O. distinguished medical virologist, with degrees from the University of Melbourne and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Professor Gust served as the head of the Virus Laboratory at Fairfield Hospital for Communicable Diseases, Melbourne. From 1990 to 2000, he joined CSL as its R & D Director. Since retiring from CSL in 2000 and being appointed a Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne, he has continued to be involved in vaccine development and to contribute to policy development through his involvement in the WHO Influenza Program, membership of the Board of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (New York), International Vaccine Institute (Seoul), Paediatric Dengue Vaccine Initiative (Seoul), Nossal Institute of Global Health (Melbourne) and Australian International Health Institute (AIHI). In addition Ian chairs the Board of the Bio21 Cluster and the Victorian Biotechnology Advisory Council and consults for and sits on the Board of Scientific Advisory Committee of several biotechnology companies.

Prof. Jan Holmgren is Professor of Medical Microbiology at the Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg, Sweden since 1981; he is also the founding Director of the University of Gothenburg Vaccine Research Institute (GUVAX). He has published more than 600 papers in the fields of microbiology, immunology and vaccinology.

A large part of his research has been focused on the mechanisms of disease and immunity in cholera and other mucosal infections and on the development of mucosal vaccines. He discovered in his early research, for instance, the AB subunit structure and function of cholera toxin and identified the GM1 ganglioside as the cholera toxin receptor (then the first ever structurally defined biologic receptor molecule). In the field of vaccines, Dr. Holmgren and coworkers have pioneered the development of methods for assessment of intestinal and other mucosal immune responses in humans, and they developed the internationally widely licensed B subunit-whole cell oral cholera vaccine (Dukoral™) all the way from concept to an internationally widely licensed final product; they have later participated in technology transfer to Vietnam and India for local cholera vaccine production. In basic aspects of mucosal vaccinology, Dr. Holmgren´s laboratory has made important contributions in, e.g., mucosal adjuvant research, and in defining the compartmentalization of mucosal immune response relating to immunization route. Current efforts include, e.g., development of a further improved single-strain oral cholera vaccine for global use, vaccine development against ETEC diarrhea and H. pylori infection, developing adjuvants for mucosal vaccines, and developing novel immunotherapies against allergic and autoimmune diseases based on “oral tolerance” and/or tolerizing B cell therapy.

Prof Holmgren has received several international and national awards for his research achievements; he is a member of several scientific academies; he is a present or past board member of, e.g., The Wallenberg Foundation (Sweden), Sida/SAREC, icddr,b, IVI and GAVI to name a few; and he has served on many scientific advisory groups, task forces, and evaluation teams for research organisations and programs, universities, and pharmaceutical and biotech companies.

Prof Holmgren and GUVAX have long-standing active collaboration with many international research institutions, e.g., WHO, GAVI, PATH (USA), Icddr,b (Bangladesh), IVI (Korea), and the Sanger Institute (UK), and are engaged in several major EU programs for vaccination (currently e.g., ADITEC, VIA [vaccination-in-atherosclerosis], Helicovaxor) involving collaboration with many leading European vaccine research laboratories.

Prof. Nirmal K Ganguly is a Distinguished Biotechnology Research Professor, Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India. He is President, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research, Pondicherry, as well as the Asian Institute of Public Health, Bhubaneswar. He is currently Chairman of Immunology Foundation. He is Vice- President, Governing Body of Central Council for Research in Ayurveda & Siddha, Department of AYUSH, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. He is Adviser to Department of Health & Research. He is former Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). He is a former Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research. Prof. Ganguly has published 757 papers and supervised 130 PhD/MD theses as guide/co-guide. His major research areas have been Tropical, Cardiovascular and Diarrhoeal Diseases. His area of specialization is Infectious Diseases and interests encompass Immunology, Biotechnology and Public Health. He is Fellow of several institutions, including the Imperial College Faculty of Medicine and the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences, Canada. Prof Ganguly has won numerous national and international awards and since 2008, is a recipient of the prestigious "Padma Bhushan" award in the field of 'Medicine'.

Prof. Roger Detels holds degrees from Harvard University, New York University and University of Washington, Seattle in Biochemistry, Medicine and Preventive Medicine respectively. At present, he is a Professor of Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases at the UCLA School of Public Health. Prof Detels has worked in Asia since 1960 in the health field. He has published approximately 100 papers on HIV/AIDS and other topics in Asia, including both Cambodia and Thailand from a total of over 200 papers on HIV/AIDS and STDs, with an overall total of 400 papers. His studies have included studies of men who have sex with men in Vietnam, China and the United States, and drug users in Vietnam, China and India. Prof Detels directs the UCLA/Fogarty International Training and Research Program, which has trained over 100 M.S. and Ph.D students at UCLA. All the trainees have been required to conduct the field work for their dissertations in their home countries. Prof Detels continues to conduct research with many of his former students. Thus, he has created a network of sophisticated epidemiologists in the Asia region, including the in-country principal investigators for studies in Cambodia/Vietnam.

Mr. Sanjay Wijesekera joined UNICEF in October 2011 as the Chief of Section for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, and Associate Director of Programmes. Before joining UNICEF, from 2005 – 2011, he was working for the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), where he was responsible for managing overall policy and global programmes related to achieving the water and sanitation Millennium Development Goals. He also worked for DFID in Ghana as an infrastructure adviser, where he helped coordinate a Joint Assistance Strategy for the donor community and was the lead donor representative for the water sector. Prior to that, between 2003 and 2005, he worked for UNICEF as a water and sanitation adviser in Nigeria. Mr. Wijesekera is a national of Sri Lanka. He is a chartered civil engineer, and holds a Master’s degree in Water and Environmental Management from the University of Loughborough, UK.

Child health and nutrition experts

Prof. Robert E Black, M.D., M.P.H. is the Professor and Director of the Institute for International Programs in the Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Black is trained in medicine, infectious diseases and epidemiology. He served as an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and at institutions in Bangladesh and Peru on research related to childhood infectious diseases and nutrition. Dr. Black’s current research includes field trials of vaccines, micronutrients and other nutritional interventions, effectiveness studies of health programs, and evaluation of preventive and curative health services in low- and middle-income countries. His other interests are the use of evidence in guiding policy and programs, including estimates of burden of disease, and the strengthening of public health training. He has more than 500 scientific journal publications and is co-editor of the textbook “Global Health.”


Prof. Zulfiqar A. Bhutta is Husein Laljee Dewraj Professor and Head of the newly created Division of Maternal and Child Health at the Aga Khan University Medical Center in Karachi, Pakistan. He also holds adjunct professorships in International Health & Family and Community Medicine within the departments of International Health at Boston University and Tufts University (Boston). He was designated a Distinguished National Professor by the Government of Pakistan in 2007. Dr Bhutta has served as a member of the Global Advisory Committee for Health Research for the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Board of Child & Health and Nutrition Initiative of the Global Forum for Health Research. He is an Executive Committee Member and Treasurer of the International Pediatric Association and on the Board of the Global Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH). Dr. Bhutta is currently the Chair of the Health Sciences Group of the Biotechnology Commission of Pakistan, a member of the WHO Strategic Advisory Committee for Vaccines, the Advisory Committee for Health Research of WHO EMRO, and its apex Regional Consultative Committee. He is also the Chairman of the National Research Ethics Committee of the Government of Pakistan.

Reproductive health and population studies experts

Prof. James F Phillips, PhD, is a Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, Professor of Population and Family Health who conducts research on health systems and policy issues in Africa and Asia. Prof Phillips collaborated with the Ghana Health Service in designing, implementing, and evaluating the Navrongo Community Health and Family Planning Project, a study that provided conclusive evidence that health and family planning services can lead to enhanced childhood survival and fertility decline in a traditional African societal setting. Improvements in maternal and child health associated with the project represent the most rapid declines in maternal and childhood mortality ever recorded for a rural African population, with service systems of the project becoming the model for a national program known as the Community-based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) Initiative.

In the 1980s, Prof Phillips was the principal investigator of the Matlab Family Planning Health Services Project, where he directed a study that developed and tested methods for improving access to primary health care in a rural and impoverished locality of deltaic Bangladesh. When results showed that childhood survival and met need for family planning were improved by program activities, Prof Phillips engaged in a program of research and action for accelerating the pace of scaling-up community-based primary health care in Bangladesh. Strategies developed for that program have since been used around the world, including in Vietnam, where Prof Phillips collaborated with provincial health authorities on models for reducing ethnic disparities in health service utilization.

Later, in the 1990s, Prof Phillips developed models for mechanizing the replication of database systems, leading to the proliferation of longitudinal health research in Africa and Asia. Prof Phillips has published various papers in leading journals documenting his work and the impact of policy experiments in Ghana and Bangladesh. Presently, Prof Phillips is the Director of a new program, Advancing Research on Comprehensive Health Systems (ARCHeS), based in the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health (www.arches.columbia.edu). He is also the Principal Investigator of two large-scale health systems development and research projects, including the Ghana Essential Health Intervention Program (GEHIP) and the Connect Project (Tanzania).

Prof Phillips holds a doctorate degree in demography from the University of Michigan.

Prof. Maxine Whittaker is the Dean, College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences, at James Cook University, Townsville Australia. Prior to commencing this position in 2016, she was the Director of the Australian Centre for International and Tropical Health at the University of Queensland, Australia.

She has extensive experience in project and programme design in health and development, and for a variety of international development partner and NGO organizations and was recently the Director of the Australian Initiative for the Control and Elimination of Malaria, and the Secretariat for the Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network, in which she remains an active member.. \ She had worked for 10 years as a senior technical advisor to the Papua New Guinea Department of Health - advising the senior management team in disease control programmes, health policy development, sexual and reproductive health and monitoring and evaluation activities in support to the health sector in Papua New Guinea. Maxine Whittaker has developed academic training programmes in university settings in Australia, Fiji, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Switzerland, for in-service, Bachelors, Diploma and Masters levels. She has provided consultancy and technical support to the development of training activities using competency based teaching and adult learning methodologies, for face-to-face, self directed, facilitated learning environments, as well as innovative web based, CD-Rom, distance and video-conference delivery modes. She is a member of the Research Programme Review Panel of the Human Reproduction Programme of WHO and presently involved in health systems and social science research activities in malaria, sexual and reproductive health and one health.

Prof. Robert Goldenberg is currently professor of OBGYN at Columbia University. He practiced high risk obstetrics for over 30 years and also served as Director of the Department of Maternal and Child Health for the Alabama Health Department for over 5 years. He is a member of the Institute Of Medicine and its Committee on Improving Birth Outcomes in Developing Countries. He has played leading roles in the March Of Dimes Prematurity Prevention Study; the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) - funded study of risk factors for fetal growth retardation; the NICHD Preterm Prediction Study; the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research’s Low Birth-weight Patient Outcomes Research Team; the NICHD Maternal Fetal Medicine Network and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease HIVNET 024 study of antibiotics to prevent infection – related Mother to Child Transmission of HIV. He directed the Office on Smoking in Pregnancy for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and completed a term chairing the Section on Mother to Child Transmission of HIV for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease-funded IMPAACT Network. He was one of the founders of the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia which now has 200,000 HIV-infected children and adults under antiviral treatment. He has consulted on pregnancy outcomes in Egypt, Columbia, Zambia, India and Armenia. He was the PI of an NICHD Global Network multi-country study on Emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care. He also chairs the NICHD Stillbirth Network. In recent years, his major interest has been the impact of various infections on stillbirths in developing countries and Lancet asked him to write a review article on that subject. He has published more than 560 journal articles.

Prof. Zhongwei Zhao has been a Professor at the Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute, College of Arts and Social Sciences, the Australian National University since 2008. Prior to taking up the present appointment, he was a senior research associate at the Cambridge Group for the History of population and Social Structure, a Bye-Fellow at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge, a senior fellow/fellow/research fellow at the Australian National University, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of New South Wales and the East-West Centre of Hawaii, and a researcher at Peking University. Zhongwei Zhao has many publications and has been awarded a number of prestigious fellowships from institutions such as University of Cambridge and the United Nation’s Fund for Population Activities. He has served as an Editorial Advisor for The Encyclopedia of Population and Associate Editor, Journal of Population Research. Zhongwei Zhao graduated from University of Cambridge (PhD, Historical Demography), University of Exeter (MA, Population Studies), and Peking University (BA, Economics).

Health systems, equity and non-communicable disease experts

Prof. Anne Mills is Vice-Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and Professor of Health Economics and Policy. She has researched and published widely in the fields of health economics and health systems in low and middle income countries and continues to be involved in research on health insurance developments in South Africa, Tanzania, India and Thailand. She has had continuing involvement in supporting capacity strengthening in health economics in universities, research institutes and governments, and has been involved in numerous policy initiatives including WHO's Commission on Macroeconomics and Health and the 2009 High Level Taskforce on Innovative International Finance for Health Systems. She was President of the International Health Economics Association (iHEA) for 2012-13 and in 2013 was elected Fellow of the Royal Society.

Prof. Anushka Patel is a Professor of Medicine at The University of Sydney and a cardiologist at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, Australia. She undertook her medical training at the University of Queensland, with subsequent postgraduate research degrees from Harvard University and the University of Sydney. As the Chief Scientist of the George Institute for Global Health, she has a key role in developing and supporting global strategic initiatives across the organisation. Her personal research interests focus on developing innovative solutions for delivering affordable and effective cardiovascular care in the community and in acute care hospital settings. Anushka currently leads research projects relating to these interests in Australia, China and India. She is supported by a Senior Research Fellowship from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Dr Richard Smith is chair of Patients Know Best, a company that gives patients control of all their medical and social care records; adjunct professor at Imperial College Institute of Global Health Innovation; chair of the Cochrane Library Oversight Committee; and adviser to F1000, a new way to publish science. Dr. Smith served for 13 years as editor of the British Medical Journal and chief executive of the BMJ Publishing Group. He was also director of the UnitedHealth Chronic Disease Initiative, which collaborated with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to create centres in low and middle income countries to conduct research to counter the pandemic of chronic disease. He has been a member of many boards, including that of the Public Library of Science. He was once a doctor on the BBC, has published extensively, and writes blogs regularly for the BMJ.

Prof. Md Suhrab Ali is Bangladesh government representative member to icddr,b Board of Trustees.He previously served as Professor and Dean School of Health Sciences at State University of Bangladesh and Nightingale Medical College for two and half years. Prof Ali also served as a Dean Faculty of Postgraduate Medical Sciences and Research, University of Dhaka for four and half years, Chairmen and Professor of Biochemistry at BSMMU for seven and half years, and President, Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA) for one and half years.

Prof. Zuo-Feng Zhang, M.D., Ph.D. is a Professor of Epidemiology and Associate Dean for Research at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles. He also serves as Co-Director of the UCLA Center for Environment Genomics, Director of Molecular Epidemiology Training Program, and Scientific Director of UCLA Central Tumor Registry. Dr. Zhang had been a Fellow of the American College of Epidemiology (ACE) since 1999 and he serves as Member of the Board of Directors of the American College of Epidemiology from 2002 to 2005. Dr. Zhang served as a regular member of NIH Epidemiology of Cancer Study Section (EPIC), is currently a regular member of the NCI-J study section, and as an ad hoc member in numerous NIH peer review study sections. Dr. Zhang served as a World Health Organization (WHO) Consultant for National Noncommunicable Disease Prevention and Controls in China. Dr. Zhang’s research interests focus on cancer prevention and control and molecular genetic epidemiology of cancers of the lung, breast, bladder, prostate, esophagus, stomach, liver, head and neck cancer, cervix, and AIDS-related malignancies. He trained over 25 PhD students and over 25 post-doctoral fellows in the area of cancer epidemiology. He is the author of 282 peer-reviewed articles published in national and international scientific journals.

*Board Members

Members of SAG were selected based on their internationally acclaimed expertise and their knowledge of icddr,b’s work. Many are past and present members of icddr,b’s Board of Trustees.