New Gates Foundation President of Global Health Visits

New Gates Foundation President of Global Health Visits

Feb 10

On Monday, February 6, 2012 the new President of Global Health for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Trevor Mundel, met with investigators from the Ragon Institute to learn about novel and cutting-edge research conducted at Ragon-affiliated laboratories. Prior to this meeting, Drs. Arup Chakraborty and Bruce Walker attended a breakfast with Dr. Mundel and Dr. Susan Hockfield, the President of MIT.


In a round table discussion led by Ragon Institute Director, Dr. Bruce Walker, 17 Members and Associate Members described the collaborative research efforts that are being enabled through the Ragon Institute structure, and four members of the administrative team discussed the mechanisms set up to foster ease of collaboration. Dr. Boris Nikolic, chief strategist for Bill Gates was also in attendance.


The roundtable conversation highlighted how the structure of the Ragon Institute has integrated scientists from diverse disciplines outside of the HIV field in efforts to advance understanding of basic immunologic mechanisms that are leading to a solution to the global pandemic. By eliminating the traditional academic silos, engineers, physical scientists, life scientists, computational biologists and clinicians are working together within the Ragon Institute to move new ideas for vaccine candidates into clinical trials. This work is not just relevant to HIV, but will lead to advances that benefit a broad range of diseases where the immune system can be harnessed to better effect, such as cancer and autoimmune diseases.


Collaborations among laboratory and clinical scientists from the Ragon Institute have resulted in a series of Phase I Clinical trials in Boston to establish the safety and unique immunogenicity responses of novel HIV candidate vaccines. These findings are leading to consideration of these vaccines for expanded efficacy trials.


Part of the two hour discussion centered on the limitations of legacy models of academic research and the potential for novel structures and approaches to be explored to accelerate progress toward a specific goal—contributing to the development of an effective HIV vaccine. With flexible funding structures such as are in place at the Ragon Institute, new methods can be brought forward to overcome traditional models that can create academic and funding obstacles to advancing promising research.


Also discussed were the Ragon Institute plans to begin Phase IIa/IIb clinical trials in Durban, South Africa, and potential partnerships with other funders in this effort. The Ragon Institute is seeking additional philanthropic avenues to develop an initial multiple-arm, potentially multiple site study. Multiple Ragon Investigators are currently supported by Gates Foundation grants, funding that has been extremely important to the overall mission of the Institute.


The Gates Foundation, represented by Trevor Mundel, was interested to hear about the reinvention of collaborative science at the Ragon Institute and how cutting-edge scientific progress is rapidly applied to new vaccines trials. The discussion closed on potential strategies to synergize with the Gates Foundation to find a vaccine against HIV. Discussions closed on potential paths forward to foster broader collaborations.


Pictured above, from left, Marylyn Addo, Daniel Kavanagh, Chris Love, Xu Yu, Arup Chakraborty, Sarah Fortune, Darrell Irvine, Todd Allen, Dan Barouch, Galit Alter, Hendrik Streeck, Kathy Donnelly, Trevor Mundel, Sylvie Le Gall, Ray Dolin, Kristina Bradford, Marcus Altfeld, Pam Richtmyer, Lindsey Baden, Silke Paust, Bruce Walker