Meet the Co-Chairs

Linda-Gail Bekker
Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, University of Cape Town
South Africa

Linda-Gail Bekker, MBChB, DTM&H, DCH, FCP (SA), PhD, is Deputy Director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, University of Cape Town (UCT), and Chief Operating Officer of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation. She is a physician scientist and infectious disease specialist. Her research interests include programmatic and action research around antiretroviral rollout and TB integration, and prevention of HIV in women, youth and men who have sex with men. She is principal investigator of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded UCT Clinical Trials Unit and remains actively involved in the work of the four associated clinical research sites and four Division of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (DAIDS) networks. She has chaired protocols for the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) and HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) and has been investigator of record (IoR) in a number of network-related protocols. She has served on numerous international scientific and working committees. She heads up the Desmond Tutu Centre of Adolescent Health and Wellbeing at UCT, aimed at developing best practices around adolescent treatment and prevention of HIV, TB and STIs and the integration of these services into an adolescent-friendly sexual and reproductive service platform. She is the Immediate Past President of the International AIDS Society (2016-2018) and served as International Co-chair at AIDS 2018 in Amsterdam.

Pontiano Kaleebu
Uganda Virus Research Institute & MRC/UVRI and LSHTM Uganda Research Unit

Professor Pontiano Kaleebu is the Director of the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) and Director of MRC/UVRI and LSHTM Uganda Research Unit. The UVRI is the largest Government Research Institution in Uganda dealing in health research pertaining to human infections and disease processes associated with or linked to viral etiology and is host to a number of partner organizations including those funded by CDC, MRC-UK and IAVI, as well as national and regional reference laboratories. The MRC/UVRI and LSHTM Unit is one of the two MRC-UK Units outside of the United Kingdom and is a multidisciplinary Programme studying the HIV epidemic in rural and urban settings, emerging and re-emerging infections and non-communicable diseases. The Unit is part of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He heads the Pathogen Genomics, Phenotype and Immunity Programme of the Unit and is a Professor of Immunovirology at the LSHTM.

He holds a medical degree from Makerere University and a PhD from Imperial College, London; is a Fellow of Royal College of Physicians-Edinburgh and a Fellow of Imperial College London, Faculty of Medicine.

As UVRI Director, he sits on the Top Management of the Ministry of Health. He leads a number of national and regional networks including the EDCTP East African Networks of Excellence. He is co-director of the Uganda Medical Informatics Center (UMIC); a computational resource offering data storage and analysis capacity. He chairs the HIV drug resistance Technical working group under the Ministry of Health and a member of the National Antiretroviral Treatment committee. He is co-Founder of the UVRI-IAVI HIV Vaccine Program.

Internationally, he is a member of Scientific Advisory Committee for the NIH Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology Immunogen Discovery (CHAVI-ID), the NIAID HIV/AIDS Strategic Working Group Steering committee, the UNAIDS Expert Scientific advisory Committee, the EDCTP General Assembly, representing Uganda, the WHO HIV drug resistance ResNet and the WHO Advisory Committee for the R&D, Innovation and Access Accelerator of the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-Being. He is on the advisory Committees and Boards of several other local and international organizations.

His main research interests are HIV vaccine research especially understanding protective immune responses, HIV diversity and resistance to antiretroviral drugs. He has co-authored more than 240 publications in peer reviewed journals and is recipient of numerous Awards including the Joint Third World Academy of Sciences and Uganda National Council for Science and Technology Prize for best young scientists in Uganda (1999), Fellowship of Imperial College London, Faculty of Medicine (2010), the Presidential Science Award (2005-6) and the Scientific Achievement Award from Rotary International (2003).

Sheena McCormack
MRC Clinical Trials Unit at UCL
United Kingdom

Professor Sheena McCormack, MBBS, MSc, FRCP, Dip Ven, is a clinical epidemiologist who works or has worked on HIV vaccine, microbicide and PrEP trials since 1994. She is a senior clinical scientist at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Clinical Trials Unit at University College London (UCL) and was awarded a Chair at Imperial College in 2012 and at UCL in 2017. She led the PROUD PrEP study conducted in men who have sex with men attending sexual health clinics in England, which reported early due to unexpectedly high incidence in those without access to PrEP and an 86 percent reduction in those with access to PrEP. Since then, Prof. McCormack has been focused on access for all who need PrEP in the UK and more broadly in Europe.

She is currently involved in a large PrEP trial in England, an Internet trial of self-testing, a therapeutic vaccine trial in Europe, and a prophylactic vaccine trial in four countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

David O’Connor
University of Wisconsin-Madison
United States

Professor David O’Connor, PhD, is a UW Medical Foundation Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and chair of the Global Infectious Diseases division of the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. His laboratory studies the interplay of genomics, immune responses, and HIV. Additionally, his group extends nonhuman primate models and research tools originally developed in response HIV to study other RNA viruses such as Zika virus. He is also a strong advocate for improved real-time data sharing to accelerate infectious disease research.David served on the NIH AIDS Research Advisory Committee and provided scientific guidance on the US response to the 2016 Zika virus epidemic. He is currently spending a year at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity as a University of Melbourne Miegunyah Miegunyah Distinguished Visiting Fellow.

David received his PhD in Medical Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his BS in Biology Honors from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Mitchell Warren
United States

Mitchell has been the Executive Director of AVAC since 2004. He was previously the Senior Director for Vaccine Preparedness at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and also spent four years as Vice President and Director of International Affairs for The Female Health Company (FHC), the manufacturer of the female condom, where he directed efforts to design and implement reproductive health programs that integrate the female condom, and he led global advocacy efforts for expanded commitment to female-initiated prevention methods. Mitchell also spent six years at Population Services International (PSI) designing and implementing social marketing, communications and health promotion activities in Africa, Asia and Europe, including five years running PSI’s project in South Africa. Mitchell is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR); Board President of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise and of Maloto; and a board member of the Towards an HIV Cure Initiative of the International AIDS Society (IAS), Marie Stopes International-US and the ATHENA Network. Mitchell has degrees in English and History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and studied health policy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health.

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