Imperial College London

UNAIDS chief Peter Piot to direct new Institute for Global Health at Imperial College London

Peter Piot

New Institute to tackle diseases blighting underprivileged populations worldwide - <em>News release</em>

For immediate release
Thursday 16 October 2008

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A leading figure in the international fight against AIDS is announced today as the first Director of the new Institute for Global Health at Imperial College London.

Dr Peter Piot, currently Executive Director of UNAIDS, will spearhead the new Institute's drive to find far-reaching solutions to health problems that blight underprivileged populations worldwide.

He will lead and coordinate work to tackle traditional and new infectious diseases, such as AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases, which continue to be significant causes of premature death globally, especially in the poorest countries.

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The Institute will also focus on chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer, which are emerging as major health problems in many developing countries, and across Asia and the Middle East.

Part of his remit will be to influence international policy to ensure that discoveries and new therapies can swiftly improve the lives of the people who need them, working in partnership with international development and health agencies and foundations.

The new Institute will also work on risk assessment, analysis for policy development and the evaluation of health programmes.

Dr Piot brings to the role of Director a wealth of experience in multinational projects aimed at improving global health, particularly in Africa and Asia.

He has been Executive Director of UNAIDS since 1995. His many achievements include negotiating a 90% reduction in the price of antiretroviral drugs from leading pharmaceutical companies, and expanding access to HIV treatment in developing countries.

He was also responsible for organising the first ever sessions to be dedicated to a health issue at the UN Security Council in 2000 and the UN General Assembly in 2001, both regarded as turning points in the global response to AIDS. (See Notes to Eds for biography)

Dr Piot said:

“Health has now become fully part of globalisation. Today you can’t deal with health in one part of the world if you don’t consider what’s going on in the rest of it. Global health is also a vital development issue, because people who are not healthy cannot develop their country.

"But after a lifetime of working in public health, I’m deeply convinced that its problems will not be solved by focusing on medicine alone. We need to redefine public health. This demands action from business, from engineers, environmental experts and scientific innovators, all working together. Ultimately we need to translate discoveries to benefit people much faster than we are currently doing.

"Imperial College is a really dynamic place with a willingness to break down barriers between disciplines. That’s exactly what is needed to fulfil our vision of an Institute for Global Health and I’m very excited to be joining the College and attempting to make that happen."

Rector of Imperial College Sir Roy Anderson said:

"The prevalence of debilitating and deadly diseases is a key factor preventing some of the world's poorest countries from developing and achieving a decent quality of life for all of their people. With his vast experience and first-hand knowledge of the challenges, Peter is perfectly positioned to coordinate multidisciplinary research at Imperial College and, importantly, to apply it in a way that can bring real benefit to people who are suffering."

Professor Stephen Smith, Principal of the Faculty of Medicine, which will host the Institute, said:

"Improving world health is a mammoth task. Medical researchers from Imperial are already working in countries like Rwanda, Peru, and India tackling the diseases that are hitting whole communities and they are making a real difference, but the closer we all work the more we can achieve.

"This new Institute represents an unprecedented opportunity to tie together and focus all of Imperial College's strengths on this problem. With the unparalleled knowledge and experience of Peter Piot at the helm, I believe we will be able to pack a really powerful punch against these devastating diseases."

Dr Piot will take up the post of Director in spring 2009, when the Institute for Global Health will officially be launched.


Photos of Dr Peter Piot.

Media enquiries:

Abigail Smith
Imperial College London Press Office
Tel: 020 7594 6701
Mob: 07803 886248

Notes to editors:

About Dr Peter Piot MD PhD

Dr Peter Piot, 59, is currently Under Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UNAIDS.

He completed his medical degree at the University of Ghent in 1974 and pursued a PhD in microbiology at the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium, during the course of which he co-discovered the Ebola virus in Zaire in 1976.

He was Senior Fellow in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Department of Microbiology, University of Washington from 1978-79, and after receiving his PhD in 1980, he pursued his career at the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, becoming Associate Professor of Microbiology and Head of the Division of Microbiology.

Working with colleagues during this time he documented heterosexual transmission of HIV, the genetic diversity of HIV and its links with chimpanzee viruses, the interaction between HIV and TB, and also developed interventions against HIV in high risk populations.

He took up the role of Professor of Medical Microbiology at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, in 1986, before becoming Director of the World Health Organisation Centre on AIDS and the National AIDS Reference Centre at Antwerp in 1987.

During this time he pioneered a series of collaborative projects in Africa, including Project SIDA in Zaire, the first international project focused on AIDS in Africa which is acknowledged as having provided the foundations of world understanding of HIV infection in Africa.

In 1992 Dr Piot became Associate Director of the WHO's Global Programme on AIDS and took up his current role in 1995.

Since 1995, he has been Executive Director of UNAIDS, and has helped to build a broad international coalition against the AIDS epidemic, placing AIDS firmly on the world’s agenda. Dr Piot’s work has brought together UN agencies with international development agencies, foundations, civil society, business and political leaders, including numerous heads of state.

He was responsible for organising the first ever sessions to be dedicated to a health issue at the UN Security Council in 2000 and the UN General Assembly in 2001, both regarded as turning points in the global response to AIDS.

He was named a Baron by King Albert II of Belgium in 1995, and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and is a member of the USA's national Academy of Sciences and Belgium's Royal Academy of M edicine. He is the author of over 500 scientific pa pers and 16 books.&l t;/ p>

Examples of global health research at Imperial College London

Global health focused research projects at Imperial currently include the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI), which is now working in eight countries in sub-Saharan African. The SCI has administered over 40 million treatments for this debilitating tropical disease since being established in 2002 with funding from the Gates Foundation.

The College has also established the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre in Abu Dhabi in partnership with Mubadala D evelopment Company of the United Arab Emirates. Diabetes in the UAE currently affects more that a quarter of the national population, a trend which the Centre aims to manage and reverse.

Researchers at the MRC Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling at Imperial College are world leaders in modelling epidemics and have extensive experience of advising governments and international agencies on controlling a wide range of diseases, including influenza, SARS, polio, HIV, BSE and foot-and-mouth disease. The centre’s mission is to be an international resource and centre of excellence for research on the epidemiological analysis and modelling of novel infectious disease outbreaks. The centre builds on this experience and provides the infrastructure to establish long-term relationships with public health bodies around the world.

The Wellcome Trust Centre for Clinical Tropical Medicine at Imperial College researches ways of tackling diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and HIV. Many of the centre’s researchers carry out their work overseas, in countries including Peru, South Africa, India and Uganda.

The Microbicides Development Programme, funded by the MRC and the UK Department for International Development and led by Professor Jonathan Weber, aims to develop vaginal microbicides for the prevention of HIV transmission. It is trialling microbicide gels to combat HIV transmission in Zambia, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.

The Short Pulse Anti Retroviral Therapy at HIV Seroconversion study, funded by the Wellcome Trust, is looking at the biology of acute HIV infection in countries including South Africa and Uganda.

Professor Frances Gotch and colleagues at Imperial College are involved in the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, which is working to develop a safe, effective, accessible, preventive HIV vaccine for use throughout the world and which has sites across Africa, India and Europe.

Researchers at the College led by Professor Geoffrey Garnett are coordinating the Reference Group for Estimates, Modelling and Projections for UNAIDS, looking at HIV surveillance, the impact of AIDS and control of the virus.

The College's other healthcare innovations include the creation of a unique partnership with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust to create the UK's first Academic Health Science Centre. This partnership, now a year old, integrates teaching, research and healthcare delivery in a way not seen before in this country to ensure that research breakthroughs are translated speedily into benefits for patients.

About Imperial College London

Consistently rated amongst the world's best universities, Imperial College London is a science-based institution with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research that attracts 12,000 students and 6,000 staff of the highest international quality.

Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and business, delivering practical solutions that improve quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.

Since its foundation in 1907, Imperial's contributions to society have included the discovery of penicillin, the development of holography and the foundations of fibre optics. This commitment to the application of research for the benefit of all continues today, with current focuses including interdisciplinary collaborations to improve health in the UK and globally, tackle climate change and develop clean and sustainable sources of energy.


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