LONDON — The Wellcome Trust — the world’s second largest private funder of biomedical research — announced on Wednesday that Norwegian scientist and public health official John-Arne Røttingen has been appointed its new CEO.
Røttingen, currently the ambassador for global health in Norway, will start in January at the London-based charity. He is replacing Jeremy Farrar, who led Wellcome for nearly a decade before becoming the World Health Organization’s chief scientist earlier this year.
“Wellcome believes in the power of science to build a healthier future for everyone, and that science delivers the greatest change through collaborative action across society,” Julia Gillard, the chair of Wellcome, said in a statement. “John-Arne’s career and experience exemplify these beliefs. He has built a reputation as one of the world’s most effective and respected figures at the interface between science and advocacy at the highest global levels.
Røttingen trained as a medical doctor before moving into infectious disease epidemiology and global health. He was the founding CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation, known as CEPI, and has also served as CEO of the Research Council of Norway. He has expertise in running clinical trials during health emergencies, advising on vaccine and therapeutic studies for Ebola and Covid-19.
“I have long admired [Wellcome’s] inspiring work to bring the potential of science and discovery to society to build a healthier future,” he said in a statement. “Philanthropy has a critical role to play in catalysing and complementing public and private research spend to improve health globally. I know well from my own experience the power of the support Wellcome gives science and scientists, backing basic research and ensuring transformative research achieves impact in the world.”
Running Wellcome — which is second only to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in terms of privately funding biomedical research — is a hugely influential position in global health, particularly at a time when government support for public health research has shrunk and when the world is still recovering from the Covid pandemic.
Wellcome has said it will spend 16 billion pounds — more than $19.5 billion — through 2032 focusing on four areas: mental health, infectious diseases, the health impacts of climate change, and supporting discovery research and science-backed solutions to health crises.