Prof. Ragnar Norrby, Director General of the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control, has been elected to be the new Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the International Vaccine Institute (IVI), the first international organization with headquarters in the Republic of Korea.
Prof. Norrby, 63, has had a distinguished career in infectious diseases in academia, clinical medicine and industry. With a Ph.D. in medicine from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, he has served as a professor in the Department of Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiology at the University of Lund, Sweden for over 20 years. He has been on the IVI Board since 2004, as one of five members representing the IVI´s signatory countries.
In the three-day meeting held at Hoam Faculty House at Seoul National University, the Board approved IVI´s budget of US$25 million for the fiscal year 2007, up from US$16 million this year. The budget reflects a growing need for research funds as the Institute strives to expand the scope of its programs. "The IVI is moving into research on vaccines against additional diseases of importance, including pandemic influenza and tuberculosis," said Dr. John Clemens, Director General of the IVI in his report to the Board.
In a bid to spur research on vaccines against emerging diseases, the IVI will complete the construction of a BSL-3 laboratory later this year. The BSL-3 lab will allow the IVI to detect and analyze highly virulent pathogens, including the deadly H5N1 flu virus, which is essential to the development of new vaccines to combat a potential pandemic flu.
The Board called on the IVI to step up on-going efforts to develop and introduce new vaccines against "neglected diseases." These include diarrheal and respiratory diseases and mosquito-born infections that collectively kill some 5 million of the poorest people worldwide each year.
IVI scientists recently discovered that incidence rates of Japanese encephalitis among children under 10 years of age in the Indonesian resort island of Bali were much higher than previously thought. The study, cited in the journal BMC Medicine last week, prompted the Balinese government to expand its JE immunization program to cover all children under 10 on the island.
"This study suggests the future direction of the IVI," said Prof. Norrby. "The IVI must double efforts to ensure that such important discoveries from its studies are actually translated into policy actions by developing country policymakers in order to make affordable vaccines available to the world´s poorest people."
The board also stressed the need to invite member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and other countries to join the IVI as Signatories to extend its resource base and global outreach. Prof. Nay Htun of UN Peace University, who chairs the IVI´s Institute Support Council, said, "If the IVI is to harness these many opportunities to ensure sustainability and growth, further support of the Institute by donors and member states will be essential," urging broader support for the Institute´s global humanitarian efforts.