Trevor Mundel, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

TITLE: President, Global Health Program

FUNDING AREAS: Tuberculosis, HIV, malaria, vaccines, drug therapies, and diagnostics

CONTACT: trevor.mundel@gatesfoundation.org, 206-709-3100

IP TAKE: Mundel leads global health strategy at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which includes programs related to various diseases, both common and rare, that affect underserved and vulnerable populations around the world. Before coming to Gates, Mundel had a high-powered career in the international pharmaceutical business.  

PROFILE: Trevor Mundel came to the Gates Foundation in 2011 with a long history in big pharma. As the current head of the foundation's Global Health programs, Mundel oversees more than $1 billion in grants annually for international health projects that, as Gates describes it, "harness advances in science and technology to save lives in developing countries." Under its Global Health umbrella, Gates focuses especially on:

  • Discovery and translational sciences (including medical research)
  • Enteric and diarrheal diseases
  • HIV
  • Malaria
  • Neglected infectious diseases 
  • Pneumonia
  • Tuberculosis

The availability of vaccines is a big Gates health focus, as are other treatment and prevention tools, like prophylaxes, pharmaceuticals, and diagnostic methods. But the foundation is continually on the lookout for new forms of medical innovation that can reduce inequities in global health, and eradicate disease more effectively in lower-income regions of the world. 

Mundel earned both his bachelor's and medical degrees from University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. He also earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Chicago and studied mathematics, logic and philosophy at Oxford's Balliol College as a Rhodes Scholar. Mundel went on to hold executive positions in clinical research at Alkermes, Inc., Pfizer, and Parke-Davis. Most recently, he worked for Swiss pharmaceutical multinational Novartis, where he led all the company's development programs, having previously run Novartis initiatives relating to exploratory, immunology, infectious disease, and clinical research and development. 

It's hard to really capture the depth of Mundel's portfolio in a few bullet points. Gates' Global Health work is extremely wide-ranging and includes hundreds of grants every year. So to really familiarize yourself with Mundel's grantmaking tendencies, prospective grantees might be interested in perusing Gates' grants database to get a sense of how many global projects the foundation funds and what they look like. The perception is that Gates' global health grants are always news-worthy large. That's an understandable perception, since the majority of their grants well exceeding $1 million each.  But in 2013, 47 percent of their grants were for less than $1 million (some "only" in the single-digit thousands) and in the first 5 months of 2014, 16 of the 47 projects granted were also for awards less than $1 million.

But no matter the dollar amount, the grants are always for ambitious work; Gates is intent on having significant, lasting, positive impact in the regions they touch. The foundation has few explicit geographical restrictions, but tends to invest in programs and organizations that improve quality of life for the world's most vulnerable people.

To provide an idea of what projects Mundel and his team actually fund, here is a short list of Gates' recent global health grants, as a point of reference:

  • Over $15 million (49-months) to AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition to ensure ethical trials and swift implementation of effective biomedical prevention strategies in order to reduce HIV incidence and prevalence;
  • $85,000 (12-months) to ESWI to develop new intervention strategies to better protect pregnant women and their unborn children against both seasonal and pandemic influenza;
  • Nearly $9 million (36-months) to Malaria No More for malaria elimination and to evolve the global dialogue on malaria from a focus on malaria control to malaria elimination and eradication.

Gates prefers to seek out prospective grantees and helps them to develop a successful proposal. The foundation regularly posts open grant opportunities on its website, and is currently accepting LOIs for five of its Global Health programs. If you believe your organization is doing work Gates might be interested in supporting, you can submit a letter of inquiry for consideration. If the foundation likes what it sees, it will support you through the development of a formal proposal. Keep in mind that Gates grant opportunities change periodically.

But back to Trevor Mundel, who oversees these opportunities: His focus and passions are as ambitious and wide-reaching as that of the foundation. He writes regularly about a variety of of world health issues on the foundation's Impatient Optimists blog, which provides engaging insight into his way of thinking. In summarizing his experience at the 2014 Global Health Product Development Forum, Mundel writes about what foundations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation strive to accomplish:

". . . our shared passion to develop and deliver life-saving products, our passion to develop new tools that can expand access to health and opportunity, is what unites us in a common vision and creates an environment that fosters collaboration, creativity, and a willingness to take risks. My hope is that we can mobilize this harmony of purpose to make incredible breakthroughs for global health in the decade ahead."