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Indian-origin health expert Anil Soni to lead The WHO Foundation as first CEO

The newly established WHO Foundation will work alongside the World Health Organisation to tackle the most pressing health challenges around the world. Soni will take up the role of The WHO Foundation's first CEO on January 1, 2021

twitter-logoBusinessToday.In | December 8, 2020 | Updated 19:06 IST
Indian-origin health expert Anil Soni to lead The WHO Foundation as first CEO
Anil Soni previously served as the head of global infectious diseases at Viatris

India-origin global health expert Anil Soni has been appointed as the first Chief Executive Officer of the newly established The WHO Foundation. The WHO Foundation will work alongside the World Health Organisation to tackle the most pressing health challenges around the world.

Soni will take up the role of The WHO Foundation's first CEO on January 1, 2021. As part of his new role, Soni will be responsible for accelerating "work to invest in innovative, evidence-based initiatives that support WHO in delivering on its mission to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all," said The WHO Foundation in an official press notification issued on Monday.

Soni previously served as the head of global infectious diseases at Viatris, a global healthcare company. According to WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Soni is a "proven innovator" in the field of global health and has spent two decades in service of communities affected by the AIDS epidemic and other infectious diseases.

"He earned my trust when he and his team at the Clinton Health Access Initiative worked side-by-side with the Ministry of Health in Ethiopia to expand access to treatment and strengthen the management of our health centers," Ghebreyesus said. The WHO chief added that Soni has a "unique set of skills that spans across public and private sectors, and his leadership of the Foundation will provide invaluable support to the mission of the WHO and the billions of people who depend on it.

On his appointment, Soni said the world is at a "critical juncture" for global public health. "After months of combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, there is hope for several successful vaccine candidates. Beyond this crucial step, the path to recovery necessitates expanded investment in the many health priorities that have been compromised in recent months - from drops in vaccine coverage and HIV treatment to delays in cancer treatment," he said.

Soni added that The WHO Foundation represents a unique new opportunity for everyone in the world to play their part in tackling these challenges and in promoting global health, through a strong and vibrant WHO.

Founder and Chairman of the Board of the WHO Foundation Professor Thomas Zeltner said Soni is a "dynamic leader" with deep experience across all aspects of global public health.

"From his work at Viatris where he has led the development and introduction of medicines to treat HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, to his leadership of the Clinton Health Access Initiative, and his time at the Global Fund (to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria), he has demonstrated his ability to work across public, private, and non-profit sectors and build successful new organisations from the ground up," Zeltner said.

The WHO Foundation said Soni is a "seasoned global health expert", bringing over two decades of experience working across public, private, and non-profit sectors to expand healthcare access in low and middle-income countries.

"In addition to advisory roles with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the MDG Health Alliance, Soni joins the WHO Foundation with a strong track record of mobilising resources and advocating for global health priorities, as demonstrated through his leadership of the Friends of the Global Fight in the United States," the Foundation said.

Soni was closely involved in the early years of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, serving as the Advisor to the Executive Director from 2002-2004 and then as the Founding Executive Director of Friends of the Global Fight from 2004-2005.

He served as the CEO of the Clinton Health Access Initiative, where he worked from 2005-2010, and oversaw the rapid expansion of the organisation.

He has been a senior advisor to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the MDG Health Alliance. He is an alumnus of McKinsey and Harvard College and serves on the board of The Marshall Project.

As a separate legal entity, the WHO Foundation seeks to complement and strengthen the WHO's efforts to address global health issues. It acts as a platform for new types of public-private engagement, while protecting the WHO's neutrality and independence as the world's leading international health authority.

The Foundation said the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for WHO, which WHO and  the UN Foundation launched earlier in 2020, together with the Swiss Philanthropy Foundation, helped test the potential for broader support to WHO by raising USD 238 million in corporate and individual pledges for its and partners' COVID-19 response efforts.

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