In February 2023 Gavi announced the conclusion of a process that had begun in 2021: appointing a CEO to succeed Dr Seth Berkley. Dr Muhammad Ali Pate was Global Director, Health, Nutrition, and Population (HNP) Global Practice of the World Bank and Director of Global Financing Facility for Women, Children, and Adolescents (GFF).  

Who is Dr Pate? 

“A proven global health leader with experience at the national and international levels” 

Dr Pate is qualified in both Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases, with a Masters in Health System Management from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In the past he was Minister of State for Health in Nigeria, during which time he invested greatly in routine immunisation and primary health care, working to eradicate polio and introduce new vaccines to the country.  

With an MBA from Duke University, he is a “highly influential figure” and holds the position of Julio Frenk Professor of Public Health Leadership at Harvard Chan School of Public Health.  

The appointment process 

Gavi states that the recruitment process was “personally overseen” by Chair of the Board Professor José Manuel Barroso. A total of 344 people applied for the role, across “diverse gender and geographical backgrounds”. In late 2022, a longlist was “whittled down to a shortlist” of three candidates.  

Following in person interviews in January 2023, the Search Committee and the Board’s Governance Committee were “unanimous in their support of Dr Pate’s candidacy”. The appointment was confirmed on 13th February 2023 at an extraordinary meeting of the Board.  

Professor Barroso emphasised that in a “field of world-class candidates” Dr Pate “stood out”.  

“With his knowledge and experience of both national immunisation programming and international emergency response and global finance, I am confident that Gavi will continue to build on its vision and mission, as well as navigate the many challenges and opportunities we will face.”  

Dr Seth Berkley passes the baton 

Current CEO Dr Seth Berkley has been at the helm for “more than half” of Gavi’s existence. He will continue to serve until 2nd August 2023, working with the Dr Pate in the meantime to facilitate a smooth and successful transition.  

Gavi indicates that since Dr Berkley’s appointment in 2011, the Alliance has “averted 11.8 million future deaths” and has helped immunise “more than 676 million children”. During this time, Gavi has also increased its vaccine portfolio, including vaccines for HPV, polio, cholera, and malaria. The economic effect of the “expansion of activities during [Dr Berkley’s] tenure” is described as “profound”. 

Dr Berkley commented that his role has been “the greatest honour of my career”. He is “proud and humbled to have been part of what the Alliance has achieved”.  

“I am confidence in its future under Muhammad’s leadership: having worked with him during his time as Minister and at the World Bank, I know he understands intimately the landscape we work in and will be uncompromising in his drive for public health equity.”  

Dr Pate’s plans for the future 

Dr Pate is expected to continue Gavi’s push for remedying the COVID-19 setbacks on routine immunisations and reaching the tragic numbers of zero-dose children. He stated that he is “deeply honoured” to be appointed to the position.  

“It will be my privilege to lead it, building on the work of Dr Seth Berkley, and continue to support countries to scale up critical routine immunisation programmes, reach more zero-dose children, expand access to new vaccines, transform primary health care systems, and help fight outbreaks and future pandemics.”  

What do you hope to see in the early days of Dr Pate’s tenure? What would your advice be to him as he assumes the role, and what will the future of Gavi look like? 

For more from Senior Representatives of Gavi at the World Vaccine Congress in April, get your tickets today.