Wellcome appoints new Director of Infectious Disease

Alexander Pym, an infectious disease expert with experience across academia, clinical settings and industry, is to join Wellcome as our new Director of Infectious Disease.

With an extensive background in molecular microbiology and translational medicine, Alexander will lead Wellcome’s work on infectious disease, supporting research to reduce the risk and impact of escalating infectious diseases.

Infectious Disease is one of three health challenges Wellcome is taking on as part of our new strategy, as well as Mental Health and Climate and Health, alongside a broad programme of Discovery Research into life, health and wellbeing. Wellcome has committed to spending £16 billion on its mission over the next decade.

Alexander is currently Senior Director in Global Public Health Research and Development, at the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, where he leads the discovery and development of new drugs for tuberculosis (TB) and related diseases. His research career has focused on developing and evaluating new treatments for TB and HIV in low-, middle- and high-income countries.

“Wellcome’s infectious disease programme has enormous potential to accelerate research and development in tools and products that will have a huge impact on people’s lives everywhere," says Alexander.

"Infectious diseases are one of the greatest health challenges of our time, causing around a quarter of deaths in the world. 

"Wellcome has created an ambitious new strategy to tackle the escalating threats of infectious diseases, building on an impressive legacy of research and advocacy, and I’m thrilled to be joining to help take this important work forward.”

He will take up the post in March 2023, succeeding Gordon Dougan who has been interim Director of Infectious Diseases since January 2021, while on secondment from the University of Cambridge.

Alexander spent his early career working as a doctor in rural South Africa, where he led the district TB control program and launched the hospital’s first voluntary HIV testing programme. 

He worked on some of the first clinical trials of triple therapy for HIV in London before completing a PhD in Molecular Microbiology at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, supported by a Wellcome Research Fellowship. He went on to spend over a decade in South Africa working initially on clinical drug development at the South African Medical Research Council, including for bedaquiline, the first new drug for TB in 40 years.  

Prior to joining Johnson & Johnson he led a research group at the Wellcome-funded Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) in South Africa, focused on mechanisms of drug resistance, population genomics and clinical evaluation of new drugs.

“Alexander stood out in this high-quality field with his breadth of experience," says Cheryl Moore, Wellcome's Director of Research Programmes. "As a clinician and scientist with experience across academia, clinical practice, and industry, across a range of international settings, he is well positioned to drive forward our mission to reduce the risk and impact of infectious disease.

“We are delighted Alexander is joining Wellcome to help us achieve our ambition of a world better protected against infectious disease, by better understanding what causes and drives disease escalation and by working with affected communities to develop accessible and affordable solutions.”

Wellcome’s Infectious Disease team supports research into ways to reduce the risks and impacts of infectious disease globally. This includes research to better understand, map and measure the reservoirs of disease and the factors that drive disease escalation, as well as creating new accessible, affordable, and available products and tools to counteract them.

We aim to shift the world from purely reacting to outbreaks, towards a more predictive and preventative approach.