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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.


Infectious diseases and immunology experts

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. 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.


Child health and nutrition experts

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.”


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.

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.

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.

Health systems, equity and non-communicable disease experts

Dr Abbas Bhuiya was the Deputy Executive Director and Division Director of Health Systems and Population Studies Division (HSPSD) until 2016 after working in various scientific and managerial positions for 37 years as a highly accomplished researcher at icddr,b.

Dr Bhuiya has a PhD and MA in Demography from Australian National University, Canberra and an MA in Statistics from University of Chittagong. He was the second Deputy Executive Director of icddr,b and the first Bangladeshi to be in this position. His research interests were around social determinants of health, and developing and testing interventions to reduce socioeconomic inequalities in health. He established icddr,b's Chakaria campus and Chakaria Health and Demographic Surveillance System (CHDSS). He served on the Board of Council on Health Research for Development (COHRED) and was interim chair for more than a year. He was a member of the first Executive Committee of the Asian Population Association.

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.

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 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 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.

Dr Thein Thein Htay is a Deputy Minister for Health and currently her main responsibility for the medical education as well as health services delivery in Myanmar. She is also an adjunct faculty member as well as an honorary Professor to the University of Public Health in Myanmar.

She obtained her Master of Health Science in population development and reproductive health from the John Hopkins Bloomberg University of Public Health in 2000. She earned a range of certificates on MCH/Family Planning including from UCLA and BKKBN in early 1990s. She received her Master of Public Health from the University of Medicine (1), Yangon in 1987. She also holds a medical degree from the University of Medicine (2), Yangon since 1977. Her career focused originally on maternal and child health, and then extends to reproductive health since 1996.

Dr Thein was one of the founding members of family planning program in Myanmar. In this capacity, she leads the public health division of the DOH throughout her career, with main thrust on meeting MDGs  4 & 5. She is also volunteering as a technical consultant to the one of key national NGOs, Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare Association since 2003. She has been a research consultant to many UN funded RH projects. She also served as a member of Gender Advisory Panel, WHO-HQ from 1999 to 2004.  Also served as a regional steering committee member for the Lancet series of South East Asia Region’s  health issues and also a country lead for Lancet Myanmar Series 2014.

Currently, she is a member of International Steering Committee of 8th Asia Pacific Conference on Sexual & Reproductive Health and Rights. She is keen in integrating HIV and FP services since decades ago and have participated in every effort to make it happened at country level. Her keen interest and vast experience in medical education has been instrumental in advocating decision makers for the reform towards new paradigm of medical education system in Myanmar. Currently, she is leading the country’s initiatives towards Universal Health Coverage and malaria elimination, both to be fulfilled by 2030.

Prof Zuo-Feng Zhang, MD, PhD 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.