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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.

Prof Robert E Black, MD, MPH of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is the chair of the advisory group.


Scientific Advisory Group (SAG)


Prof Robert E Black, MD, MPH 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.”

Dr Zulfiqar A. Bhutta is the Robert Harding Inaugural Chair in Global Child Health at the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, co-Director of the SickKids Centre for Global Child Health, and the Founding Director of the Center of Excellence in Women and Child Health at the Aga Khan University, unique joint appointments. He also holds adjunct professorships at several leading universities globally, including the Schools of Public Health at Johns Hopkins (Baltimore), Tufts University (Boston), University of Alberta, as well as the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. He is a designated Distinguished National Professor of the Government of Pakistan and was the Founding Chair of the National Research Ethics Committee of the Government of Pakistan from 2003 to 2014. Dr Bhutta is part of the seven-member Independent Expert Review Group (iERG) appointed by the UN Secretary General for monitoring global progress in maternal and child health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). He represents the global academic and research organizations on the GAVI Alliance Board, and is the co-Chair of the Maternal and Child Health oversight committee of the World Health Organization’s Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office as well as the Global Countdown for 2015 Steering Group.

Dr Bhutta was educated at the University of Peshawar (MBBS) and obtained his PhD from the Karolinska Institute, Sweden. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (Edinburgh and London), the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (London), American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Pakistan Academy of Sciences. He heads a large research team in Pakistan with a special interest in research synthesis. Dr Bhutta’s research interests include newborn and child survival, maternal and child undernutrition, and micronutrient deficiencies.

Dr Gordon is the Dr Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor and Director of the Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology at Washington University in St. Louis. He is internationally known for his research on gastrointestinal development and how gut microbial communities affect normal intestinal function, shape various aspects of human physiology including our nutritional status, and affect predisposition to diseases. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, and the American Philosophical Society.

Prof Thomson is a microbiologist and bioinformatician interested in bacterial evolution and spread with a focus on sexually transmitted and diarrhoeal diseases. He is also the Head of Microbes, Faculty, Parasites and Microbes, Sanger Institute and Professor of Bacterial Genomics and Evolution at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Prof Thomson lab uses genomic approaches to investigate how variation in bacterial genomes relates to their hosts/niche, changes over time and geography, or in response to therapeutic interventions. His group also focuses on accessing genome data directly from clinical samples without the need for culture.

Prof Thomson graduated from Warwick University in 1991 with a degree in Microbiology and Microbial Technology and then went on to earn a PhD in global regulation of virulence and secondary metabolism in enteric bacteria.

Dr Bennett directs the DrPH program at Johns Hopkins and also serves as the CEO of the Future Health Systems consortium and chairs the Joint Health Systems Research Committee (Wellcome Trust/MRC/DFID/ESRC). She is a former chair of Health Systems Global.

She has a PhD from London School of Economics, MPhil from University of Cambridge, Kings College and BA from University of Oxford, St. Anne's College. With a background in politics and economics, and Dr Bennett has a broad interest in health systems and institutional challenges in promoting stronger governance for health.

Dr Abdullah Baqui, MBBS, MPH, DrPH, is a professor of International Health and the Director of the International Center for Maternal and Newborn Health at Johns Hopkins University, USA. He is trained in medicine, public health, health systems, and infectious diseases epidemiology. He has extensive experience in public health research, training, education, and policy advocacy. He joined the Bloomberg School of Public Health of Johns Hopkins University in 2000. Earlier he served icddr,b in various capacities for 22 years. Working closely with the WHO and many other national and international organisations, he assists with the development of policies intended to improve public health.  He serves as the editor-in-chief of Journal of Health Population and Nutrition and as an honorary editorial consultant of the Lancet.

He has authored 248 scientific articles published in peer-reviewed journal and many other reports, working papers and policy briefs. His current research interests include design and evaluation of health interventions to improve health and survival of mothers, newborns, and children and implementation research to improve coverage, quality and equity of preventive and curative health interventions in large programs in low- and middle-income countries of South Asia and Sub Saharan Africa. Working with Bangladesh Ministry of Health, icddr,b and other NGOs, he has established the Projahnmo Study Group in Bangladesh. He has conducted pioneering research related to newborn, child and maternal health that influenced national and global policies and programs.

The other interests of Dr Baqui include use of evidence in policy and programmes, including the development of research capacity and the strengthening of public health training and education. He has mentored numerous Bangladeshi public health professionals.

Dr Mohammad Shamsudduha (‘Shams’) is an Associate Professor in the Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction (IRDR) at University College London (UCL) in the UK. He also holds an honorary Research Associate position at the University of Sussex, UK where he previously served as a Lecturer. He is a member of the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH), and the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

Dr Shams is a British Bangladeshi by background who has been living in the UK since 2007. He holds a PhD in Hydrogeology from University College London that was funded through a prestigious Wingate Geography Scholarship and a Dorothy Hodgkin Postgraduate Award. He also received extensive academic training in various branches of geosciences from various institutes in Bangladesh, Australia, and the USA.

Dr Shams a highly accomplished natural scientist in the field of hydrogeology with a particularly focus on water risks to public health, sustainable development, and climate resilience. Over the past two decades, he has conducted extensive field studies in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa and collaborated with researchers from various disciplines including health science, promoting interdisciplinary approaches to investigating complex associations between water quality, climate, and human health outcomes. He has published over 60 articles in refereed journals including Science and Nature and his current (2023) Google Scholar citation is over 6000. He is serving as an Associate Editor for the Frontiers in Water journal. He was a contributing author (Water Chapter) to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s sixth assessment report. His research findings have helped policymakers and stakeholders make informed decisions about sustainable water management strategies to achieve water and food security, good health and wellbeing, and climate resilience in Bangladesh and around the world.

Anastasia Gage’s current research focuses on adolescent health, gender-based violence, and maternal and reproductive health in sub-Saharan Africa and Haiti. She teaches Monitoring and Evaluation of HIV/AIDS Programs, Monitoring and Evaluation of Maternal and Child Health Programs in Developing Countries, and Adolescent Health Policies and Programs. Dr. Gage has extensive experience with the evaluation of population and health programs in Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Ethiopia, Haiti, Jamaica, Niger, Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Zambia. Prior to joining Tulane, Dr. Gage was a Technical Officer, Performance and Results Monitoring, for the Basic Support for Institutionalizing Child Survival II Project. Dr. Gage has served as Tulane Principal Investigator for sub-agreements on USAID- funded projects, such as MEASURE Evaluation, APHIA II Evaluation (Kenya), and the Population and Reproductive Health (PRH) Associate Award. She is the 2014-2017 President of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population.

Board Members

Dr Fred Binka has a DSc (Honoris Causa) University of Health and Allied Sciences Ho. Ghana and PhD in Epidemiology (Summa cum laude) from University of Basel, Switzerland. He is now appointed as a professor of clinical epidemiology at University of Health and Allied Sciences, and has previously served as a coordinator with WHO Emergency Response to Artemisinin Resistance in the Greater Mekong Sub-region in Asia.

Dr Binka is a recipient of Rudolf Geigy Award and Ronald Ross Medal among other accolades. He has authored around 150 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. He has been involved in public health system revamping in Sierra Leone, worked as the executive director of INDEPTH Network, conducted a number of clinical trials in Africa other than working as a public health specialist with the Ministry of Health, Ghana and as a medical officer with WHO.

He has served as a board of trustees member of different national and international organisations based in Ghana, Switzerland, UK and Burkina Faso and also as an editorial board member of different scientific journals. He is currently a member of Malaria Consortium UK BoT and has previously served WHO committees, IVCC and IVI among others.

Rosalind Smyth is Professor of Child Health at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health.  She was Director of this Institute from 2012-22 and is now Vice-Dean (Research) in the Faculty of Population Health Sciences at UCL.  She graduated in medicine from Clare College, Cambridge and Westminster Medical School. Until September 2012, she was Professor of Paediatric Medicine at the University of Liverpool and, from 2005-2012, was Director of the NIHR Medicines for Children Research Network. Rosalind’s research interests include cystic fibrosis, clinical trials and respiratory virus infections. 

Rosalind is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and has been appointed as it’s Vice President (Clinical) from December 2023.  She chairs the UK MRC’s Training and Careers Group and is a member of MRC Strategy Board.  She is Trustee of The Health Foundation, Medical Research Foundation and The Lister Institute. She was a member of the MHRA’s Commission on Human Medicines Committee 2009-13 and chaired its Paediatric Medicines Expert Advisory Committee (2002-13). She was awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2015 for services to the regulation of medicines for children.

Dr Hanna Maria Nohynek completed her medical studies, PhD, and international health competence in Helsinki, Finland. She is the Chief Medical Officer and Team Leader of Vaccine Programme Development at the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL, former KTL), Finland. She is also the secretary of the Finnish NITAG, National Advisory Board of Vaccines (KRAR), and does private practice at the travel health clinic of Aava/ Pikkujätti in Helsinki. 
Dr Nohynek’s PhD work was on the aetiology of childhood pneumonia in Finland, Russia, and The Philippines. In collaboration with the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, The Philippines, Dr Nohynek coordinated phase II trials (Hib, meningococcal, PCV, PPS among pregnant mothers and infants) and a major phase III trial of an investigational 11PCV of Sanofi Pasteur against childhood pneumonia on Bohol during years 2000-2004. Her research interests include vaccine safety, register-based vaccine impact studies, policy and decision-making, and evidence-based evaluation of introducing new vaccines into national programmes. Dr Nohynek’s publications include more than 100 original articles (including the first scientific report on the association between vaccination and narcolepsy), chapters and books. She teaches vaccine-related epidemiology and methodology nationally and internationally and has guided several elective, graduate, PhD students.
 Dr Nohynek has served on expert committees evaluating the introduction of PCV and rotavirus vaccine in Finland and as technical advisor to EU, IMI, IVI, WHO (GACVS 2006-12), GAVI, SIDA/SRC, Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and several vaccine manufacturers. She was the chairman of EPIET 1998-2001 and a member of EDCTP 2002-3. Dr Nohynek belongs to the faculty of Advanced Course in Vaccinology since its initiation in 2000, initiated the EPIET vaccine epidemiology module in 1997, and the Finnish Diploma Course on Global Health in 2000.

Dr. Peter Harvey is an international development professional specialising in water and environmental sanitation in low-income countries. His main areas of expertise are: water service sustainability; urban sanitation; water quality and safety; market-based approaches to sanitation; and emergency WASH. Peter has particular interest in multidisciplinary research approaches, the interrelationships between the technical and non-technical aspects of water and sanitation, and the dynamics of sustainable development. He has worked as a programme manager, technical adviser, university lecturer and public health engineer, and has a wide range of consultancy and employment experience in both development and humanitarian relief contexts. He has also published extensively on WASH topics and has worked across Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe.

Professor Rijal is currently working as the Director, Communicable Diseases at WHO South-East Asia Region. Previously he worked at Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative’s Managing Director of the Regional Office in India. He holds an M.B.B.S. from Calcutta Medical College (India), and a PhD from Ghent University (Belgium). Prior to joining DNDi Professor Rijal was Professor of Internal Medicine and Chief of the Tropical and Infectious Diseases Centre at B.P. Koirala Institute of Health Sciences (Nepal).

Nancy Cheng is a former Assistant Auditor General at the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.

Nancy Cheng has an extensive experience as a senior practitioner in legislative auditing. She served as Assistant Auditor General from 2003 to the fall of 2018 when she retired from the public service.

Prior to retirement, she co-led the Performance Audit Practice which supported the Auditor General in producing Reports to Parliament. In addition to managing and overseeing the Practice, her area of responsibility for performance audit included a wide portfolio of departments and agencies as well as a number of management functions. This included audits focusing on the central agencies; finance and revenue; industry and economic development; science and technology; public safety; law and order; foreign affairs, immigration, and international/border activities; transportation and agriculture; and government-wide functions such as human resources management, service delivery and information technology, financial management and control, internal audits, and program evaluation.

Before that, Ms. Cheng was the Assistant Auditor General responsible for the audit of the Public Accounts of Canada, the Canada Pension Plan, the Employment Insurance Account, and a number of Crown corporations and federal entities, notably the Business Development Bank of Canada, the Canada Post Corporation, Marine Atlantic Inc., the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, five public sector pension plans, the Royal Canadian Mint, and Via Rail Canada Inc. She also oversaw the Office’s operations in Montréal and Halifax, and was responsible for the audit of two UN agencies: UNESCO and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Prior to her appointment as Assistant Auditor General, Ms. Cheng was seconded to the Communications Security Establishment for 18 months as the Associate Deputy Chief for Information Technology Security.

She currently serves as a Director on the Board of the CAAF, the Canadian Audit and Accountability Foundation and is a member of the Board of Trustees for icddr,b, the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh.

In 2017, Ms. Cheng was appointed to the Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (AASB) of CPA Canada. The AASB sets authoritative standards and guidance for audit and other assurance engagements in Canada.

Before joining the Office, Ms. Cheng was a Computer Audit Manager with EY, where she articled and qualified as a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA). In March 2000, she was elected to the Fellowship of the Institute of Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario (FCPA).



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.