SAMRC former President and CEO appointed to the newly formed World Health Organization (WHO) Science Council

Cape Town | Professor Salim Abdool Karim, former President and CEO of the South African Medical Council (SAMRC) and now Director of the HIV-TB Pathogenesis and Treatment Research Unit, one of its Extramural Research Units, has been appointed to the newly formed World Health Organization (WHO) Science Council.

The Science Council was established earlier this month to provide guidance on the science and research strategy of the organization. This is a nine-member team comprising of renowned experts acknowledged from around the world who represent a broad range of disciplines encompassing many aspects of science – from basic research to public health implementation science.

The Science Council will “act as the voice of scientific leadership” providing advice to the WHO to respond to health problems such as global health threats, interpret the latest scientific and medical knowledge, and identify the latest advances in technology to improve health globally. Furthermore, the Science Council will provide guidance in the advancement of the organisation’s mission, including on the identification of current and new science and technology issues that WHO needs to address for direct or indirect impact on global health.

In his opening remarks at the first meeting of the WHO Science Council on 27 April, WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that this step is part of the organisation’s deep-rooted transformation which they embarked upon four years ago. “A key part of that transformation has been to strengthen WHO’s scientific work, so that we are not just keeping up with the latest scientific developments, but staying ahead of the curve and harnessing the best science for global health” said Dr Ghebreyesus, adding that with the advent of Covid-19, never has science been so critical for addressing challenges to global health.

Also Director and Co-Founder of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), a close associate-organisation of the SAMRC, Prof Abdool Karim was recognised for his immense scientific contributions to HIV prevention and treatment and very recently, COVID-19 research in South Africa and by extension in Africa and abroad. He previously served as the chairperson of the South African ministerial advisory committee (MAC) on COVID-19 where he led a team of 49 public health experts.

In response to the appointment, Prof Abdool Karim said: “Pandemics such as AIDS and Covid-19 have highlighted the important role of science in global health. I am looking forward to participating in this Council providing scientific advice to WHO on future developments in health that the world needs to be better prepared for.” 

SAMRC’s President and CEO, Prof Glenda Gray who also co-served with Karim on the MAC, leading the research sub-committee, has congratulated him saying that because of his significant contributions to the medical field in South Africa and globally, the appointment is well deserved.

“This global recognition of the hard-working Prof Abdool Karim is testimony yet again of the calibre of health professionals and the high level of expertise that we have in South Africa. As the SAMRC and the broader science community in the country, we are very proud and will continue supporting him in this venture for the improvement of the lives of people,” said Gray.


About the WHO Science Council:
The Science Council was inaugurated on Tuesday, 27 April under the chairpersonship of Dr Harold Varmus, the winner of the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Here is a full list of members:

  • Prof Harold Varmus, Nobel Laureate & Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical School, USA (Chair)
  • Prof Salim Abdool Karim, Director of the Centre for the AIDS program of research in South Africa (CAPRISA), South Africa & CAPRISA Professor of Global Health at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University
  • Dr Edith Heard, Director General of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, United Kingdom
  • Prof Adeeba Kamarulzaman, Professor of Medicine & Infectious Diseases, University of Malaya, Malaysia
  • Dr Mary-Claire King, Professor of Genome Sciences, University of Washington, USA
  • Prof Abla Mehio Sibai, Professor of Epidemiology, American University of Beirut, Lebanon
  • Dr Denis Mukwege, Gynaecologist and Nobel Peace Laureate, Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Dr Bill Pape, Director of Gheskio, Haiti
  • Dr Yongyuth Yuthavong, National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Thailand


Release date: 
Wednesday, April 28, 2021 - 15:12
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