Geoff Garnett, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

TITLE: Deputy Director, Data and Metrics, Integrated Delivery

FUNDING AREAS: HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted disease prevention

CONTACT: geoff.garnett@gatesfoundation.org, 206-709-3100

IP TAKE:  A longtime public health thought leader, Garnett has developed his expertise at the intersection of health and mathematical modeling and supports investments in mathematical modeling that are useful in informing policymakers on how best to fight HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.

PROFILE: Geoff Garnett came to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with a background in scientific and health research generally and HIV and STD research in particular. Garnett's last post was at Imperial College London, where he was a professor of microparasitic epidemiology.

Garnett's bio on the Gates' website shares:

Geoff joined the foundation in 2011 as a deputy director in HIV. Prior to the foundation, Geoff was a Professor in the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College London and a Reader at Oxford University working on the epidemiology, evolution and control of sexually transmitted infections. At Imperial College he directed the Masters in Epidemiology course. Geoff has served as Chair of the UNAIDS Reference Group on Estimates Models and Projections and on a number of Institute of Medicine and Wellcome Trust panels.

Geoff holds an undergraduate degree in Zoology and a PhD in Pure Science from Sheffield University and an MSc in Biological Computation from York University. His professional training included a Wellcome Trust Training Fellowship in Mathematical Biology and a Royal Society University Research Fellowship at Oxford University.

In his research, Garnett studies patterns regarding how sexually transmitted diseases happen, where they happen, who they happen to, and what sort of factors (most notably sexual behavior) cause them to be spread in the first place. Lots of modeling involved in this, to be sure, all with the hope of discovering where it's most effective to stage health-care interventions to prevent the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Garnett's recent research has focused on the effectiveness of HPV vaccines, anti-retroviral treatments, and HIV prevention programs more broadly.

On the health policy end of things, Garnett is the chair of the HIV Modelling Consortium, a group of representatives from major organizations around the world working to fight HIV/AIDS. The consortium's stated purpose is to coordinate research activities surrounding HIV/AIDS and mathematical modeling.

At the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Garnett is a deputy director primarily focused on HIV/AIDS. Recognizing that HIV continues to spread faster than treatment is received, the team at Gates has identified six program areas where it believes its money will best help to combat AIDS around the world: vaccine research and development, voluntary medical male circumcision, anti-retroviral prevention methods, improved diagnostic methods, better service delivery, and "demonstrating the scalability of HIV programs."

The grants that Garnett and his team make are not small, which seems logical since the foundation itself is large and wants nothing less than for "every person" to have a "healthy, productive life." The foundation has more than $34.6 billion in assets and gives out about $3.2 billion in grants a year. Gates' HIV-related grants tend to be quite large. A few recent ones:

  • $4.9 million to Australian pharmaceutical research group Policy Cures to support R&D for HIV-related treatment and cures
  • $4.9 million to the Imperial College London in support of HIV epidemiology research
  • $3.4 million to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to identify HIV mortality patterns in Africa in the era of anti-retroviral treatments

It would appear that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's largest HIV grants line up pretty well with Garnett's area of expertise—namely, how research and modeling can identify areas where public health policymakers should focus their resources. Indeed, focusing resources is a theme among the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's HIV/AIDS projects. The largest anti-HIV investments come from governments. The foundation knows this, so it tries to prioritize work in regions of the world where there isn't likely to be government support or where there is simply a scarcity of resources relative to the need for HIV/AIDS services.