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African Development Bank appoints renowned professor in top job

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Picture: Alain Jocard / POOL / AFPA man receives a vaccination on July 27, 2022. Building Africa’s pharmaceutical sector to serve the Continent is an idea whose time has come, says Professor Padmashree Gehl Sampath, recently appointed as a special advisor on pharmaceuticals and health infrastructure to the African Development Group’s president, Dr Akinwumi Adesina.

The African Development Bank Group recently appointed renowned Professor Padmashree Gehl Sampath as a special advisor on pharmaceuticals and health infrastructure to the Bank’s president, Dr Akinwumi Adesina. She will also be leading the technical work on setting up the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation, a new pan-African institution launched by the Bank, at the request of regional member countries.

A well-respected thought leader in the field of development studies and global health, Gehl Sampath is working on some of the world’s most pressing challenges, predominantly from technology, trade, and industrialisation perspectives. At the African Development Bank, she will provide strategic guidance on pharmaceuticals and health, which have become important focus areas for the Bank in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gehl Sampath was born in India and received her education in India, Germany, and the United States (US). She holds a PhD from the University of Hamburg, Germany, with an academic background in engineering, economics, and law.

Gehl Sampath is one of the original thinkers on new paradigms for international technology transactions that can better secure global public goods, with a focus on pharmaceuticals and health. Her work in this area spans more than two decades. It has focused on understanding questions of access to technology and know-how, and how its absence impacts local production and availability of drugs, vaccines and therapeutics at the firm, ecosystem, country, and regional levels.

Gehl Sampath has conceptualised and managed large projects on intellectual property rights and access to medicines, as well as supported the formulation and implementation of technology policy incentives for the global pharmaceutical sector. Since November 2021, Gehl Sampath has served as Director, Global Access in Action Programme at Harvard University, US, where she was previously senior advisor since 2017. She has been a Fellow at the Berkman Klein Centre for Internet and Society at Harvard University since September 2018, working on projects from a wider industrialisation and digital economy perspective.

Between 2009 and 2016, Gehl Sampath served at the United Nations, leading its work on technology and innovation. She is currently the chairperson of the technical advisory group of the Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (CTAP) of the World Health Organisation, contributing her expertise on technology transfer and technological licensing. Since 2021, she has advised the German International Agency (GIZ) and Germany’s ministry of economic development and co-operation (BMZ) on accelerating vaccine production in Africa.

Her vast experience includes serving on the Scientific Review Committee of the Partnership on African Vaccine Manufacturing (PAVM) of the Africa-Centres for Disease Control in 2021, and she currently serves on the advisory council of the African Continental Free Trade Area and leads a large regional project focused on building regional centres of excellence for vaccine production in Africa at the University of Johannesburg where she is a visiting professor.

Gehl Sampath has also been working with the African Development Bank Group on conceptualisation of the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation since 2021.

Commenting on her appointment as a special advisor to Adesina, Gehl Sampath said: “Building Africa’s pharmaceutical sector to serve the Continent is an idea whose time has come. I am deeply inspired by the trust placed in me by Dr Adesina and I look forward to working closely with the president and the entire senior management team at the African Development Bank to make this a reality.”

Announcing the appointment, Adesina said Gehl Sampath’s appointment was a logical step considering the Bank Group’s bold efforts in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. To tackle challenges arising from the pandemic, the Boards of the African Development Bank Group approved a quality health infrastructure strategy and an action plan to develop pharmaceutical capacity in Africa for pharmaceutical products and vaccines.

“I am delighted to appoint Prof Gehl Sampath as special advisor on pharmaceuticals and health infrastructure,” Adesina said. “She will provide strategic guidance on these new areas where we will be investing. She is a globally acclaimed leader who brings global expertise and experience on pharmaceutical and health policy that will greatly enhance the work and delivery of the African Development Bank Group on its planned investments for pharmaceuticals and vaccines, as well as quality healthcare infrastructure for Africa.”

At the request of regional member countries, the African Development Bank Group plans to invest $3 billion in the development of pharmaceutical products as part of its efforts to industrialise Africa and lessen the Continent’s reliance on imports.

The African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation will address intellectual property rights issues, patents, and copyrights that constrain the access of Africa to technologies, know-how, processes for boosting industrial manufacturing of pharmaceutical products and vaccines.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Development Bank Group (AfDB).