Mission, Vision & Core Values

Mission

To support coordination among stakeholders that enables the development and dissemination of scientifically rigorous information, consensus best practices guidance and standards, and administrative, regulatory and technical advice and training that will advance responsible research, development and, if warranted, implementation of genetic biocontrol technologies to eliminate vector borne diseases and improve public health.

Vision

An environment in which gene drive and other genetic biocontrol technologies for public health can be safely, ethically and rigorously studied, developed, tested, and, if warranted by appropriate decision makers, responsibly implemented at appropriate scale to have positive health impact.

Core Values

Public Good: Deemed trustworthy in all plans and actions, and with all stakeholders; serving the public interest; information and output shared broadly as a public resource

Proactivity: Forward-thinking to pave the way as technology advances; prepared for risks to avoid or respond to crises

Transparency: Openness in plans, actions, decision-making and data

Neutrality: Not advocating on behalf of any stakeholder or product

Scientific Rigor: Supportive of a rigorous scientific process for gene drive development; credible source of evidence-based information on the science for all stakeholders

Consensus Building: Seeks effective partners, supporters and stakeholders; inclusive incorporation of voices from diverse stakeholders to reach consensus

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Leadership

The GeneConvene Global Collaborative is staffed by a team of experienced technical, regulatory and administrative experts providing a resource for accurate and timely information, advice and support to foster a responsible approach to research and governance of gene drive and other genetic biocontrol technologies for public health. The team is located in Maryland and Michigan, USA, and Nairobi, Kenya.

  • Director

    Brinda Dass, PhD

    Senior Technical Expert, Policy Lead for GeneConvene

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    Dr. Brinda Dass currently serves as Senior Technical Expert and Policy Lead for the GeneConvene Global Collaborative at the FNIH. Dr. Dass has a Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology, an MPH, and extensive experience in transgenic laboratory animal care and use, preclinical drug testing, clinical trial management, and review of new animal drug dossiers for genetically engineered products. Other special interests include the regulation of and policy development for engineered insects intended for population suppression, disease mitigation, and invasive species/environmental control.

    Their most recent contribution in the risk assessment space is as an expert member of the Convention on Biological Diversity Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Risk Assessment in March-April 2020 and Nov 2023.

    Prior to the FNIH and GeneConvene, Dr. Dass served as a Biologist for the FDA from 2012 to 2017. They have provided expert advice and guidance on a variety of topics related to the policy, regulation, and risk assessment of GM insects, especially mosquitos that spread human diseases such as Zika and Dengue, both within FDA as well as across US federal agencies, international organizations, and other stakeholder groups, including the public. They also represented the US FDA on various task forces related to the Zika health emergency, both at the national and international level. Additionally, they also represented the US government as an expert on an International Ad Hoc Expert Group organized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for the preparation of the biology document on Aedes aegypti.

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    Renata Hoffstetter, MS

    Senior Project Manager, Population Health Science

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    Ms. Hoffstetter has experience providing organizational support and managing complex projects, including for a not-for-profit organization focused on stabilization initiatives in conflict zones and local commercial enterprises investment projects.

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    Stephanie James, PhD

    Senior Scientific Advisor, Population Health Science

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    Dr. James is Senior Scientific Advisor at the FNIH, where she works with the GeneConvene Global Collaborative and advises on other programs on global health research. She has a Ph.D. in microbiology, a background in research on parasitic diseases, and more than 30 years of experience leading global health programs.

    Prior to joining FNIH in 2004, Dr. James served as Chief of the Parasitology and International Programs Branch in the Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, US National Institutes of Health, and subsequently as Deputy Director and director of the Global Infectious Disease program at The Ellison Medical Foundation. At FNIH, she served as Director of the Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative and Director of Science from 2008–2018; Acting Executive Director in 2012; and Senior Vice President for Science from 2018 to 2021. She was the founding Director of the GeneConvene Global Collaborative. Dr. James has served on multiple international advisory committees, including to the World Health Organization, the US Agency for International Development, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, and the U.S.-Japan Cooperative Medical Sciences Program. In 1998, she was elected President of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, and is presently a Fellow of that society.

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    Erika Jones, MAPHB

    Project Manager, Population Health Science

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    Ms. Jones has a master’s degree in public health biology with a focus on fetal hemoglobin and its effects on malaria and sickle cell disease. She is experienced in leading public health programs and projects. Prior to joining the FNIH, she was program manager for a nonprofit organization in Baltimore.

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    Willy Kiprotich, PhD

    CEO of the Environmental Health and Safety Consultancy, Ltd, Nairobi, Kenya

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    Dr. Kiprotich has a Ph.D. in Immunology and more than 15 years of experience building networks and providing leadership in biosafety. He is the immediate former Chief Executive Officer at the National Biosafety Authority (NBA), Nairobi, Kenya.

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    Royden Saah

    Senior Technical Expert for Scientific Partnerships at GeneConvene

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    Royden Saah serves as the Senior Technical Expert for Scientific Partnerships at GeneConvene. In his role, Royden utilizes his expertise in One-Health, infectious disease, and gene-drives to foster cooperation among governmental, academic, non-governmental, and transnational organizations. Working with partners including the African Union, WHO, and others, he promotes collaborations to build knowledge, capacity, and institutions in advance of technology intended to mitigate the impact of malaria.

    Prior to joining the FNIH, for 7 years he coordinated an international program to develop multiple, genetic biocontrol tools for use in preventing extinctions. In that role, he organized governments, universities and non-profits from the US, Australia, and New Zealand to formally work together as part of The Genetic Biocontrol of Invasive Rodents consortium (GBIRd). Previous to his environmental work, Royden spent 12 years in the NC Division of Public Health leading multiple laboratories dedicated to the prevention, detection and response to high-consequence pathogens. In 2020, he worked in the National Coordination Center as a WHO GOARN volunteer to increase the ability to detect and understand COVID-19 presence and spread in Papua New Guinea. In 2015 he worked with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Liberia to create biosafety processes and build a pediatric hospital. From 2008-2014, he conducted projects with the Guyana Ministry of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Association of Public Health Labs to build infectious disease detection and response capacity in Guyana.

    Royden brings passion to his endeavors and remains a fierce advocate of public health, health equity, mental health, and social justice, working and volunteering on the ground and at policy level to reduce suffering globally.

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    Michael Santos, PhD

    Senior Vice President, Chief Population Health Science Officer

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    Michael Santos is Senior Vice President, Science Partnerships, and Chief Population Health Science Officer. He is responsible for a portfolio of programs supporting biomedical innovation to improve health and health equity globally. He also directs the GeneConvene Global Collaboration, an initiative advancing informed decision making about the development of genetic biocontrol technology for public health.

    Prior to joining the FNIH in 2019, Dr. Santos was at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where he served as a Deputy Director in the Global Health division accountable for strategy and operations across the Discovery & Translational Sciences, HIV, and TB programs. His responsibilities included developing investment strategies for emerging priorities, leading the team and processes that supported investment making and management, and reporting on team strategy and progress. He was also a Strategy Advisor on the Strategy, Innovation, and Impact team, developing perspectives on the philosophy of philanthropy.

    Previously Dr. Santos was a Principal at Boston Consulting Group, where he led projects on malaria, HIV, contraceptive technology, global health regulatory systems, and public radio and contributed to strategies in the energy and environment, health care, industrial goods, consumer, and retail sectors. His first career was astronomy: he holds a Ph.D. from Caltech and was a research fellow at the University of Cambridge and the Space Telescope Science Institute.

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    Alex Sullivan, MS

    Project Manager, Population Health Science

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    Mr. Sullivan has a master’s degree in international studies and global health and nearly a decade of experience coordinating high-level global health convenings and managing projects. Before joining the FNIH, he worked to expand the public-private partnerships, networks, and reach of public health-oriented not-for-profit organizations.

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    Susan Wiener, MA

    Program Manager, Population Health Sciences

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    Ms. Wiener has more than 15 years of experience in global health project management and grants management. Before joining the FNIH, she was a programmer and conducted research and evaluation for not-for-profit organizations.

Governance

The GeneConvene Global Collaborative is a program of the FNIH, a U.S. not-for-profit 501(c)3 charitable organization created to advance biomedical discoveries leading to improved health outcomes. GeneConvene is governed by the FNIH Board of Directors, with an expert Advisory Board informing decisions and a Management Team leading the strategic planning, managing activities development and execution, and facilitating partner interactions.

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Advisory Board

  • Director

    Christian Borgemeister, PhD

    Director, Centre for Development Research, University of Bonn, Germany

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    Dr. Borgemeister is an entomologist whose research has focused on biological control and integrated pest management in the tropics for improved food security, and vector control of infectious diseases like malaria as part of a One Health approach. He has done extensive work in Africa. He previously served as the Director General of the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) in Nairobi, Kenya. Dr. Borgemeister is on the Board of Trustees for the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (Nigeria). In addition, he is a Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences, the Royal Entomological Society, the Entomological Society of America, and a member of several national and international academic organizations.

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    Abdallah Daar, DPhil

    Emeritus Professor of Clinical Public Health; Global Health; and Surgery, University of Toronto. In Toronto he was also Senior Scientist, University Health Network/Toronto General Hospital Research Institute; and Director of Ethics and Commercialization, Sandra Rotman Centre Professor

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    Daar’s academic career has spanned biomedical sciences, organ transplantation, surgery, global health and bioethics. He has worked in various advisory or consulting capacities with the UN, the World Health Organization and UNESCO, and is co-founder of the non-profit Grand Challenges Canada. He was a member of the African Union High Level Panel on Modern Biotechnology, and currently serves on the AU High Level Panel for Emerging Technologies. He is a recipient of the UNESCO Avicenna Prize for Ethics of Science. His major research focus is on the use of life sciences to ameliorate global health inequities, with a particular focus on building scientific capacity and increasing innovation in developing countries. Professor Daar is a Permanent Fellow of the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study. His major work there has been on Developmental Origins of Health and Disease; and more recently on Artificial Intelligence and Digital Diagnostics. In 2017 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada for his work in global health and in establishing Grand Challenges Canada. His 7th book “Garment of Destiny” was published in October 2018.

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    Yacine Djibo

    Founder and Executive Director, Speak Up Africa, Dakar, Senegal

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    Ms. Djibo is the Founder and Executive Director of Speak Up Africa, an advocacy and communications organization that facilitates African leadership and ownership in tackling critical issues affecting the continent. Previously, she worked as the Senegal Country Director for Malaria No More and consulted for NetGuarantee, an innovative finance mechanism that accelerates delivery of mosquito nets to families in Africa. Ms. Djibo coordinated several high-profile campaigns and events throughout Senegal to create an engaging platform for malaria prevention and treatment. Prior to joining the fight for child health, she worked in the private sector in finance, real estate development and insurance as managing director of a life insurance company from 2006–2010.

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    Ann Kingiri, PhD

    Senior Research Fellow, Science, Technology & Innovation (STI), African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS), Nairobi, Kenya

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    Dr. Kingiri pursues interdisciplinary research on integrated approaches to agricultural development and innovation with relevance to Africa’s inclusive and sustainable development. She pursues policy oriented research in STI, agriculture and bioenergy, including climate change and gender as cross-cutting themes. She is currently involved in research and advocacy focusing on fourth industrial revolution with relevance to Africa. During her tenure as Director of Research at ACTS, Dr. Kingiri coordinated generation and dissemination of STI knowledge through research, policy analysis and capacity building. She has held appointments and served on committees for the World Economic Forum, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (Task Force on Synthetic Biology and Biodiversity Conservation), and the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (including on the committee for the report “Gene Drives on the Horizon: Advancing Science, Navigating Uncertainty, and Aligning Research with Public Values”).

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    Bernard Nahlen, MD

    Director, Eck Institute for Global Health, Dept of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA

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    Dr. Nahlen has spent his career working to address the many diseases that disproportionately impact people in low- and middle-income countries. He has served as the Deputy Coordinator of the US President’s Malaria Initiative and worked to expand that program into 24 high-burden countries in Africa as well as to Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand, as well as developing effective partnerships with Ministries of Health, multilaterals (WHO, UNICEF, UNDP, World Bank, the Global Fund), other bilateral aid agencies in the UK and Australia and other organizations.

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    Nicholas O. Oguge, PhD

    Associate Professor of Environmental Policy, Centre for Advanced Studies in Environmental Law and Policy, University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya

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    Dr. Oguge’s has more than 28 years of postdoctoral experience spanning academia, research, resource management, project management and community outreach. Professor Oguge was a Coordinating Lead Author for the African Region during the recent Global Assessments of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services by IPBES. He is currently managing a suite of environmental research efforts, including the NIH/IDRC funded Global Environmental and Occupational Health (GEOHealth) East African Hub, where he is the Kenya PI. He is the Chief of Party for the Economics of Natural Capital in East Africa Project, a USAID project managed by Environmental Incentives. He is one of 20 recipients of the UK Research and Innovation grant through the Global Challenges Research Fund, a peer reviewer with NERC (UK) and a past member of the Scientific Review Committee (SRC) at the Socio-Environmental Synthesis Centre (SESYNC), University of Maryland, USA. Professor Oguge is also the founding president of the Ecological Society for Eastern Africa (ESEA) and member of the Editorial Board, African Journal of Ecology.

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    Elias Zerhouni, MD

    Professor Emeritus, Johns ​Hopkins University; Co-Founder and Chairman, ModeX Therapeutics

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    Dr. Elias Zerhouni was most recently the President, Global Research & Development, and a member of the Executive Committee for Sanofi from January 2011 to July 2018.

    Dr. Zerhouni’s academic career was spent at the Johns Hopkins University and Hospital where he was professor of Radiology and Biomedical Engineering and senior adviser for Johns Hopkins Medicine. He served as Chair of the Russell H. Morgan Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences, Vice Dean for Research, and Executive Vice Dean of the School of Medicine from 1996 to 2002, before his appointment as Director of the National Institutes of Health from 2002 to 2008.

    In 2009, President Obama appointed Dr. Zerhouni as one of the first presidential U.S. science envoys.

    Dr. Zerhouni also served as senior fellow to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation from 2009 to 2010. He authored more than 200 scientific publications and is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine and the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.

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