GALVmed CEO, writes:
When in 2006 I started to work on a new business plan with the GALVmed chair, Dr Mike Witty, and Dr Sam Thevasagayam (the then R&D director) I knew that our plan was audacious. GALVmed was setting out to facilitate a global alliance across public, private, academic and voluntary sectors. At this time we had a handful of staff and very limited resources.
Fast forward to March 2011: the board, still guided by Mike Witty, signed off the second five-year business plan. The plan commits GALVmed to securing over £90m to ensure that we are delivery livestock vaccines, diagnostics and medicines to the millions of poor famers for whom livestock is a lifeline.
As we embark on this new business plan I wanted to bring the entire staff together. So we met up in Nairobi in August. As I stood up to address the 31 staff we now employ I was struck by the diversity of our team. However you look at diversity GALVmed has it – in terms of background, ethnicity, gender and experience at all levels of team. This includes staff, board, advisors and the contract staff we work with and it this diversity which is one of the sources of our strength.
For me one of the highlights of the meeting was the presentation by Fred Musisi and his team on the VACNADA project which has been capacity building African vaccine labs. Fred has been an exceptional leader of this project. He is a natural diplomat with a gentle style but great wisdom. This form of leadership builds long-term productive relationships which will be essential to GALVmed’s future. We currently have 128 partnerships and 82 legal agreements in place with 45 pending agreements and more coming on-stream all the time. This is perhaps the true measure of our growth.
Whilst the GALVmed team were in Nairobi we went to see the Kenya Veterinary Vaccines Production Institute (KEVEVAPI). It was good to meet the new CEO, Dr Geofrey Mutai. This was also the first time I had seen their Deputy Managing Director, Dr Jane Wachira, in around three years. As she explained the impact that around half a million Euros of investment will make to the lab, I got a sense of great optimism for the future and all the staff I spoke with felt the same. Hearing that the old freeze drier could process around 4.5 million vaccines a year and the new equipment could process one million a week helped explain their optimism. And seeing Seamus Pender, the Pfizer Global Health Fellow, working at KEVEVAPI reminded me how we had also brokered a skills sharing programme to augment the capital investment. This is a good example of how we can add real value – brokering different support programmes to help ensure that the key strategic infrastructure is in place.
The next day some of the GALVmed team visited a private sector vet who also ran a faith-based not-for-profit organisation. He told me it is one thing to persuade poor farmers of the merits of Newcastle disease vaccination. However, if he can’t guarantee to supply vaccines when they are needed, all this education work is wasted. So, within 24 hours, I could see the difference that capacity building KEVEVAPI will have on poor poultry keeper through better security of supply. As the GALVmed team discussed what we had learned in Kenya it was fantastic to also have a South Asian perspective on Newcastle disease. I could clearly see how these exchanges between South Asia and Africa are going to be very fruitful in the future.
I met with another qualified vet recently too – Dr Modibo Traore who is the FAO Assistant Director-General charged with the Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department. Prior to this he had headed the African Union’s Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources and Mali’s Livestock and Veterinary Services and had served as a government minister in Mali. We were discussing a new memorandum of understanding between our two organisations. The more we talked the clearer it became how closely aligned our values and aspirations are. Whilst many MOUs are ceremonial I am particularly excited by this one because I think we can work on both policy and practice and delivery some really exciting joint work.
I started this Last Word by mentioning GALVmed chair Mike Witty. When we set up the governance of the organisation we were clear that 6 years was as long as any chair should serve. Keeping a fresh perspective over a number of years can be a problem. This, however, is not true of Mike. We were fortunate indeed that Mike was there to guide us. He has great scientific authority and gave us a huge commitment in terms of time: he is quite simple the best chair I have worked with in my career to date. With his guidance GALVmed has been reengineered to meet the challenges of supporting poor livestock keepers. Our debt to him is huge.
So the October board meeting would be a very sad affair were it not for our exceptional chair-elect.Dr Shadrack Moephuli will bring a wealth of knowledge, experience and gravitas. It is right at this stage that the position of chair has been passed to one of the foremost leaders of the agricultural sector in Africa.