Nicolas De Santis Joins the Board of Directors of the Global Virus Network (GVN)

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend to Chair (GVN) Board of Directors, Lisa Paulsen, Romain Murenzi, Steven Burrill, Salim Abdool Karim, Andrew Cheng, Longde Wang, Scott Fine and Raj Shah Also Elected to GVN Board.

The Global Virus Network (GVN), a coalition of the world’s leading medical virology research centers working to prevent illness and death from viral disease, today announced the addition of Nicolas De Santis, President & Secretary General of Gold Mercury International to its Board of Directors. Nine other members also joined the Board; Kathleen Kennedy Townsend as Chairperson, Lisa Paulsen, Romain Murenzi, G. Steven Burrill, Salim S. Abdool Karim, Andrew Cheng, Longde Wang, N. Scott Fine and Raj Shah. The announcement was made today by Robert C. Gallo, co-founder of the GVN and Chair of GVN’s Scientific Leadership Board. Vint Cerf, the American computer scientist, who is recognised as one of “the fathers of the Internet” and who is also a Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google, will also lend his expertise as an advisor. He said, “It is an honour to join this organisation. Such an initiative is not only timely but necessary in an era when the world is so connected and so vulnerable to rapid viral propogation.” 

“The addition of these new Board members will add valuable resources to the GVN and will greatly enhance GVN’s global visibility,” said Dr. Gallo, Director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “One of the biggest lessons we learned after discovering the first human retroviruses, including co-discovery of HIV as the cause of AIDS, and developing the HIV blood test, is that researchers need a GVN to share and disseminate important information seamlessly, without government politics or financial limitations. Having such an organization will result in millions of lives being saved.”

Nicolas De Santis is President & Secretary General of Gold Mercury International, the London based Global Governance and Visionary Leadership think tank founded in 1961. De Santis brings his European, corporate and foundation expertise to build GVN both strategically and internationally. “There are few health & scientific collaboration projects that are as global and of the professional scale of the Global Virus Network. As our planet’s population grows exponentially, GVN’s role will become central in preventing, protecting and curing present and future generations. GVN will work with key global governance stakeholders including international organizations, governments, foundations, the scientific community, corporations and more in order to achieve its global mission,” said De Santis.

As Chair of the Board, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend will bring global leaders together to support the mission of the GVN. “The global community faces serious threats from new viruses every day, including SARS, Hantavirus, Dengue, West Nile and the specter of pandemic influenza viruses,” said Kennedy Townsend. “Our best defense is a rigorous and worldwide research network poised to engage in any outbreak situation. GVN is the very safety net that we need to protect the health of the world’s citizens from new viral threats. To put this safety net in place requires support from governments, the private sector, and citizens. I will bring all of these partners together to protect human health through GVN and its many partners.”

Lisa Paulsen, President and CEO of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, which is widely known for its groundbreaking and unprecedented initiatives that galvanize the nation in support of critical healthcare issues, will broaden GVN’s reach. “Facilitating collaboration and information-sharing among scientists and doctors can play a huge role in moving research forward. The GVN presents an opportunity to help save so many lives, and I look forward to contributing to its success,” said Paulsen.

Romain Murenzi is the Executive Director of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, in Trieste, Italy, and former Minister of Science and Technology, Rwanda, where he has been a key architect of its country’s education, science and technology renaissance after years of civil war and genocide. Dr. Murenzi, who now deals with scientific issues and capacity building for all low and mid-income nations, said: “The world faces dreadful epidemics almost every year. These epidemics, in fact, trigger severe consequences especially in the poorest countries, where they affect social life, development and economy. However, every menace to mankind can be turned into an opportunity for advancement and progress. This goal can be met through science, technology, innovation and shared knowledge. Therefore, it is with great pleasure that I welcome joining the Global Virus Network Board of Directors and the opportunity to give my contribution to this global undertaking.”

G. Steven Burrill, Founder and CEO, Burrill & Company, said “The viral disease challenge in this world is expanding unchecked, with global populations on the move and new ‘bugs’ mutating faster than we can address them.” Burrill continued, “My 45 years in working to build some of the leading companies in the world – Pharmasset as an example, where I was Chairman for over 7 years from its earliest days to its major successes in Hepatitis C – have provided me with an intimate knowledge of how we can build major companies from great discoveries and bring real solutions to the great healthcare challenge. It’s a real pleasure to be a part of this team.”

Salim Abdool Karim, President of the South African Medical Research Council and Director of CAPRISA (Center for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal said, “By increasing its reach in Africa, GVN is well-placed to make an impact with innovative solutions to a number of human viral diseases that threaten Africa and beyond.” As a clinical infectious diseases epidemiologist, co-leader of the CAPRISA 004 tenofovir gel trial, which demonstrated efficacy of topical antiretroviral microbicides to prevent both HIV and HSV-2 infection, a longstanding leader in training of future virologists and a key voice in South Africa on evidence-based policymaking, Dr. Karim will bring his research experience and leadership on how best to impact on emerging and re-emerging viral infections.

Andrew Cheng is Senior Vice President of HIV Therapeutics and Development Operations at Gilead Sciences, Inc., a Bay Area-based biopharmaceutical company focused on developing innovative medications for life-threatening diseases such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, respiratory and cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Dr. Cheng said, “I applaud the vision and objectives of the GVN, which are very much in line with Gilead’s own mission and heritage in working to address unmet medical needs. Gilead also is a strong supporter of innovative public-private partnerships that aim to prevent and control viral epidemics. I am delighted to support and help guide GVN’s important work.”

“China has high prevalence of viral diseases such as hepatitis B,” said Professor Longde Wang, President of the Chinese Preventive Medicine Association. “We have also had the serious SARS attack. We have learned a lot from the response to these diseases,” continued Professor Wang. “So the prevention and control of viral diseases are the main task for the government. In order to do the work well, we should learn from international experts through the GVN.”

N. Scott Fine, founder and President of Fine Equities, Inc said, “I’m honored to be joining the distinguished members of the GVN and will do whatever I can to support its mission of protecting humanity from viral threats that can wreak enormous harm on civilization itself. I’m proud to be aligned with Dr. Gallo and other globally renowned virologists in the quest for a safer and healthier planet.”

Raj Shah, Chairman & CEO of CTIS, Inc. said, “The promise and commitment of having a healthy world by eliminating health disparity can’t be achieved without building a solution that deals with virus management.”

The ten new appointees will join founding Board of Directors members Tim Moynahan (previously served as founding Chair), Mathew Evins, Terry Lierman, Dr. Tony Cernera, along with Dr. Robert Gallo, Dr. Reinhard Kurth of Germany and Dr. William Hall of Ireland, who co-founded GVN.

About Nicolas De Santis

Nicolas De Santis is President and Secretary General of Gold Mercury International, the independent strategic vision advisory think tank and international non-governmental organization based in London that focuses on Global Governance and Visionary Leadership. Gold Mercury works with international leaders towards advancing anticipatory governance practices and strategic frameworks in key global areas to guarantee a better society and more sustainable outcomes. His role in Gold Mercury includes managing the historic GOLD MERCURY AWARDS® for Visionary Leadership in Global Governance. The Awards are presented to leading world figures and institutions and exemplify ethical, visionary and sustainable decision-making. Gold Mercury Award laureates include the most visionary individuals and organizations in the world. Recipients of the Award include former U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford. De Santis also serves on the board of U.S. based public company, the leading online marketing and email solutions company and is the son of Eduardo De Santis, a film producer of dozens of movies in America and Europe, and famous Spanish leading actress Maria Cuadra. Before entering the world of business, De Santis attended the Lee Strasberg actor studio in London and the London Film School.

About The Honorable Kathleen Kennedy Townsend

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is Senior Vice President at the Rock Creek Group, a hedge fund. She served as the State of Maryland’s first woman Lt. Governor and was in charge of a multimillion dollar budget and had oversight of major cabinet departments, including Economic Development and Transportation, State Police, Public Safety and Correction and Juvenile Justice. Prior to being elected Lt. Governor, Townsend served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the United States. Townsend currently serves on the Board of Advisors at the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The eldest child of the late U.S. Senator and Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy, and Ethel Kennedy, Townsend received her undergraduate degree from Harvard University and her law degree from the University of New Mexico.

About Lisa Paulsen

Lisa Paulsen is President and CEO of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), a charitable organization representing the philanthropy of the television and film businesses. In 2008, Paulsen was a co-creator of Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), an initiative to accelerate ground-breaking collaborative cancer research and bring new therapies to patients quickly in order to end cancer’s reign as a leading cause of death. Harnessing the power and influence of the media, SU2C brings together many of the world’s most renowned entertainers to generate awareness and encourage the public to take a stand against cancer. Stand Up To Cancer has produced three nationally-televised fundraising specials, simultaneously broadcast live and commercial-free on ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC, as well as numerous cable networks. More than $260 million has been pledged to Stand Up To Cancer in connection with the three telecasts. In addition to health, EIF’s national initiatives seek to have a positive impact in several other areas, including the arts and education, encouraging public service, and serving veterans and military families. To date, EIF has raised more than $800 million. Paulsen lost both her parents to cancer and in their honor led the creation of the Coleman Cancer Center, a TORI network site of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, in the family’s home town of Terre Haute, Indiana.

About Romain Murenzi

Romain Murenzi is the Executive Director of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, in Trieste, Italy. Dr. Murenzi was born in Rwanda and raised in Burundi. After graduating from the National University of Burundi in 1982, he taught mathematics in high school for three years before being awarded a fellowship for doctoral studies from the Catholic University of Louvain, where he earned his doctorate degree in physics in 1990. Dr. Murenzi subsequently became a postdoctorate researcher at the Center for Research and Advanced Training in Scientific Computation in Toulouse, France, and a professor of physics at Clark Atlanta University in the United States. Between 2001 and 2009, he served as the Minister of Science and Technology in Rwanda. He returned to the United States in 2009 to assume a joint appointment as Director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Sustainable Development at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, D.C., and visiting professor at the University of Maryland’s Institute of Advanced Computer Studies in College Park, Maryland. He was appointed Executive Director of TWAS in April 2011. Dr. Murenzi is member of the following boards: the Global Research Council (GRC), the Global Virus Network (GVN), and the Sustainable Development Solution Network (SDSN).

About G. Steven Burrill

G. Steven Burrill has been involved in the growth and prosperity of the biotechnology industry for over 40 years. Burrill founded and has been Chief Executive Officer of Burrill & Company, a venture capital and merchant banking firm, since 1994. Prior to his founding of Burrill & Company, he spent 28 years with Ernst & Young, directing and coordinating the firm’s services to clients in the field of biotechnology, life sciences, high technology, and manufacturing worldwide. He currently serves on the Boards of Directors of AliveCor (Chairman), Catalyst Biosciences, Depomed (NASDAQ: DEPO), NewBridge, Novadaq (NASDAQ: NVDQ), Targacept (NASDAQ: TRGT) and XDx. Previously he served as Chairman of the Boards of BioImagene, Abunda Nutrition and Pharmasset. Mr. Burrill is a founder and currently serves as Chairman of the Board of the National Science and Technology Medals Foundation (NSTMF). In addition, he serves as Chairman of the Board of the World Council for Ethical Standards, and also serves on the Boards of the National Health Museum, the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, and the Gladstone Foundation.

About Salim S. Abdool Karim

Salim S. Abdool Karim is Director of CAPRISA – Center for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa, President of the South African Medical Research Council and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He is also Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at Columbia University, Adjunct Professor of Medicine at Cornell University and Associate Member of The Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. Besides his role in investigating the role of antiretrovirals for HIV prevention, Dr. Karim is involved in studies on viral evolution and the epitopes eliciting broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV. His clinical research on TB-HIV treatment has impacted on and continues to shape the international guidelines on the clinical management of co-infected patients. Dr. Karim is a Foreign Associate of the Institute of Medicine and Member of the Academy of Science in South Africa, African Academy of Science and the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World. He is a Member of the WHO Expert Advisory Panel on Sexually Transmitted Infections and HIV, Member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPfAR), and Member of the Scientific Advisory Committee for Global Health of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

About Andrew Cheng

Andrew Cheng, MD, PhD has been Senior Vice President of Development Operations at Gilead Sciences Inc., since January 2009. Dr. Cheng is responsible for Gilead’s biometrics, clinical operations, drug safety and public health, project and portfolio management, and regulatory affairs activities. He joined Gilead in 1999 and served as Vice President, Clinical Research, overseeing clinical development activities for Gilead’s development-stage programs in HIV/AIDS. Prior to joining Gilead, he trained in internal medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Cheng received his Medical Degree and PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from Columbia University and undergraduate degree from the Johns Hopkins University.

About Longde Wang

Professor Longde Wang, President of the Chinese Preventive Medicine Association, is also a member of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China, the Chief Expert of Strategic Program of “Health China 2020”, the Chief Committee Member of National Expert Advisory Committee on Disease Control and Prevention, and the Deputy Director of the Stroke Screening and Control Project Committee of the Ministry of Health of China. Professor Wang has served as Vice-Minister of Ministry of Health of China. In 2009, he was elected as an Academician of Chinese Academy of Engineering. Professor Wang plays significant leadership role in public health in China. More than 100 papers and more than 30 books have been published related to public health, preventive medicine, and epidemiology and disease control, especially some papers published on important journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, the Lancet. Professor Wang has several important awards, including China’s National Science and Technology Award, the Stop Tuberculosis Partnership’s 2007 Kochon Prize, and the 2007 UNAIDS Award of Excellent Leadership and Continuous Contribution for Response to AIDS.

About N. Scott Fine

N. Scott Fine is founder and President of Fine Equities, Inc. Fine originated the process and co-managed Central European Distribution Corp.’s initial public offering and is an investment banker at Scarsdale Equities. Fine has focused his efforts and has worked or initiated several transactions in the healthcare and consumer products area. Fine was the lead investment banker for DermaSciencs, Inc. Fine sits on the Deans Advisory Board for The University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education at Storrs, Connecticut.

About Raj Shah

Raj Shah is Chairman & CEO of CTIS, Inc. and is a businessman committed to making a difference in the health care industry with a specific focus on chronic diseases and converging of clinical research with clinical care, public health (prevention) and health education to deliver the best outcome. He has a special commitment to the underserved and minority population and is committed to using health IT and health education to reduce health disparity and increase health equality. Shah is also committed to personalized medicine and use of bioinformatics to combat diseases in predisposition stage. He has leveraged business, non-profit and philanthropy segments in improving productivity, efficiency and quality in the healthcare industry and has directed over $1 billion in business through his management role with two Fortune 100 companies and his current company, CTIS, Inc.

About Global Virus Network (GVN)

The Global Virus Network (GVN) is a non-profit organization comprised of leading medical virologists from Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and other nations. The GVN’s mission is to combat emerging pandemic viral threats and current viral killers through international collaborative research, training the next generation of medical virologists, education and advocacy.

For more information on GVN, please contact Nora Grannell at

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