Contact: Ellen Wilson or Preeti Singh, +1 301 652 1558, ext. 108.
Bethesda, Maryland, January 14, 2008—The PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative today announced the appointment of Ashley Birkett, PhD, as director of Preclinical Research and Development (R&D), effective immediately. Birkett will have primary responsibility for directing the program’s early-stage vaccine development efforts, including the assessment of vaccine technologies for inclusion in its portfolio and scientific and technical assessment of its ongoing projects. He also will oversee relationships with those external partners engaged in preclinical R&D projects supported by the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative.
Birkett brings to the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative more than ten years experience in the vaccine industry directing research and preclinical development, with the bulk of his experience in R&D of influenza and malaria vaccine candidates. Most recently, he served as senior director of preclinical research at Acambis, where he had responsibility for the company's global preclinical vaccine research portfolio, with a special focus on influenza and adjuvant technology identification. Prior to Acambis, he played a similar role at Apovia Inc., first as senior director of research and, subsequently, as vice president of preclinical development.
For seven years, spanning his time at both Acambis and Apovia, Birkett led the Influenza Vaccine Program through its initial IND filing and a Phase 1, multi-site trial for which promising results were released in January 2008. Between 1997 and 2004, he led the Malaria Vaccine Program housed first at Immune Complex Corporation and then at Apovia. This program was the first corporate partnership for the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative following the founding of the initiative at PATH in 1999.
Commenting on the appointment, Christian Loucq, MD, director of the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, said, “The field of malaria vaccine development faces some significant challenges today. We need to identify new adjuvants that will safely boost the immune response in young children and novel technologies that will deliver vaccines to the desired target inside the human body. Ashley Birkett has experience in both these areas, as well as years of direct involvement in malaria vaccine development. I am immensely pleased that the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative—and indeed all of PATH—will have the opportunity to benefit from Ashley’s scientific and managerial expertise.”
Malaria, a mosquito-transmitted disease, kills more than one million people—most of them African children—every year. Established as a global program at PATH in 1999, the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative’s mission is to accelerate the development of promising malaria vaccine candidates and to ensure that they are available and accessible to people in developing countries.
“ I am thrilled to be a part of the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative’s outstanding and diversely skilled team that is committed to the single, unwavering goal of developing a highly efficacious malaria vaccine,” said Birkett. “Recent clinical data from trials supported by our program clearly demonstrate that the development of an effective malaria vaccine is an achievable goal; it’s an exciting and challenging time to be part of the effort to develop vaccines that are even more effective against this destructive and deadly disease.”
The PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, which has received more than $250 million in funding since its inception, has supported the development of more than two dozen vaccine formulations. These include GlaxoSmithKline Biological’s RTS,S malaria vaccine, the world’s most clinically advanced malaria vaccine candidate, and Sanaria Inc.’s attenuated sporozoite vaccine candidate.
Birkett earned a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics from Virginia Commonwealth University; he has a BSc (Honors) in Applied Biological Sciences from Bristol Polytechnic in the United Kingdom.