Pharma Executive To Head Gates’ Global Health Program

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced that Trevor Mundel has been named president of the foundation’s Global Health Program. Mundel is global head of development for Novartis Pharma in Basel, Switzerland and will start at Gates on 1 December.

The move may serve to solidify views that the Gates Foundation is oriented toward northern pharmaceutical industry practices, which have been called into question by developing countries in international fora in recent years. Novartis, a leader in the pharmaceutical industry, has been a target of ire from public health activists in India in recent years – with another flare-up in recent weeks – due to its efforts in the courts to weaken Indian patent law ostensibly to better allow “evergreening” of existing drug patents (IPW, Public Health, 6 September 2011). India is the world’s biggest supplier of generic drugs.

The Gates Foundation derives revenues from patenting of pharmaceuticals, as explained by Gates in response to a question from Intellectual Property Watch earlier this year (IPW, Public Health, 17 May 2011). Developing countries, meanwhile, have been fighting for the right to use flexibilities to patents built into international trade rules.

Earlier this year, the Gates Foundation hired a Microsoft patent attorney – and former World Intellectual Property Organization official – into its Global Health Program (IPW, Public Health, 16 February 2011).

The Gates Global Health Program is here.

Bill Gates, co-chair of the foundation, said in a release: “[Mundel] brings tremendous scientific and medical credentials, in the lab and in the clinic. We look forward to working with him to help improve the health of people in the world’s poorest countries.”

“After a global search, it became clear that Dr Mundel’s deep understanding of the complexities, challenges and opportunities to improve global health made him a prime match for us,” said Jeff Raikes, CEO of the foundation. “Under his leadership, we will continue to build upon our work with our partners to deliver existing vaccines, drugs and other tools, and to create new ones.”

Mundel will lead the foundation’s work against diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, and on polio eradication. He will oversee the foundation’s global health grant portfolio, which includes more than $14.7 billion in grants to date, the foundation said.

The press release states: “Mundel has been a senior executive and scientist with Novartis since 2003, serving most recently as global head of development. He previously served as global head of immunology and infectious disease, global head of exploratory development, and head of exploratory clinical development. At Novartis, he oversaw some 140 clinical projects, a budget of $3 billion, and more than 7,500 employees. He is also on the boards of the Genomic Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation, and the Novartis Venture Fund. Prior to his tenure at Novartis, Mundel held senior positions at Alkermes, Inc., Pfizer and Parke-Davis. Mundel earned his bachelor’s and medical degrees from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. He also studied mathematics, logic and philosophy at Balliol College, University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, and earned his PhD in mathematics at the University of Chicago. He also completed his residency requirements in neurology at the University of Chicago Hospitals.”

William New may be reached at

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