Seth Berkley is trading an "I" for a "G."
In August, Berkley, who founded and heads the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), will take over the GAVI Alliance, another public-private partnership focused on vaccines but with the broader agenda of immunizing children in poor countries against many diseases. Berkley, an epidemiologist who began working on forming IAVI in 1994 and formally launched it 2 years later, previously had jobs with the Rockefeller Foundation, the Carter Center, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although IAVI and GAVI are both vaccine-centric, they differ in key ways. There is no AIDS vaccine, and the New York City-based IAVI has tried to push the research and development forward by funding innovative collaborations and even building its own laboratory. The Geneva-based GAVI, in contrast, helps countries purchase and deliver existing vaccines. IAVI's budget is $93.9 million for 2011. GAVI has committed more than $4 billion to poor countries since it started in 2000, vaccinating nearly 300 million children and saving an estimated 5 million lives.
ScienceInsider spoke with Berkley shortly after the GAVI Alliance's board announced the news today.
Q: Why are you leaving IAVI?
S.B.: For two reasons. GAVI has an incredibly important mission and the leadership opportunity came up now. From my perspective, GAVI has the ability to be the broad umbrella dealing with all these critical vaccine issues. The second thing is IAVI is a really mature organization now. I've seen it grow from a sapling to a really well-rooted tree, and I feel the organization is strong enough for me to go. I think it's the right time.
Q: What are the challenges at GAVI?
S.B.: There are all these new vaccines coming out and the challenge is to get them to people in the poorest countries. This requires good immunization delivery systems, affordable vaccines, and sustainability of financing—which means getting vaccines into the budgets of those countries and donor funds to help with their distribution. And the challenge for GAVI is that this needs to be accelerated.
Q: How are you going to change GAVI?