Orin Levine, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

TITLE: Director, Global Development

FUNDING AREAS: Vaccine delivery

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

IP TAKE: An epidemiologist by training, Levine leads the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in enhancing vaccine delivery systems in underserved regions around the world. Levine's team makes about $30 million in grants a year, but usually doesn't support more than about 15 projects. So if you have a vaccine project you want Gates to fund, think big.

PROFILE: Is it their Microsoft origins that explain Bill and Melinda Gates' philanthropic investments in technology, science, and data to save the most marginalized elements of humanity from poverty and despair? If their philanthropic funding priorities are any indication, the wildly successful couple places great stock in what scientific discovery and the expansion of human knowledge can accomplish for mankind. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's charitable programming directs substantial sums of cash to some of the world's most innovative research in disease and other challenges hindering development in low-income and poverty stricken regions around the world.

Among Gates' staff leaders is Orin Levine, epidemiologist who heads up the foundation's work in delivering vaccines, especially to children, in some of the poorest, most medically neglected parts of the world. Levine comes to Gates from Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health, where he taught international health and served as director of the school's International Vaccine Access Center. Prior to his academic appointment, Levine spent five years as a consultant at the World Health Organization. He has also served as a Steering Committee Member of the Decade of Vaccines Collaboration and Co-Chair of its Global Access Working Group, as well as President, Committee on Global Health for the American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation concentrates on making immunizations available to kids with no access to them—about 20 percent of world's childhood population. The foundation notes that 1.5 million children die every year from preventable illnesses like pneumonia or diarrhea. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works closely with intergovernmental organizations and large civil society vaccine programs like the GAVI alliance to coordinate on which vaccines get where and how. The foundation is interested in the actual supply of vaccines, but Gates is also interested in surrounding supports and infrastructure without which medical service delivery is impossible—such things as transportation, trained healthcare professionals, refrigeration, and facilities where vaccines can be stored and dispensed.

To provide a better sense of what the foundation actually funds, here's a list of recent Gates vaccine delivery grants:

  • $2.99 million (23 months) to VillageReach to implement electronic logistics management and improve transportation systems for immunization delivery in Mozambique.
  • $999,550 (27 months) to Nexleaf Analytics for remote vaccine temperature monitoring systems (to reduce spoilage) and electronic logistics management systems in targeted regions of Africa and Asia.
  • $1.1 million (30 months) to the Pan American Health Organization for model immunization distribution systems, designed to be replicable globally, in Latin America.

Levine is a passionate and information-rich contributor to the foundation's internal blog, Impatient Optimists.  Recurring themes amongst his posts: He is mindful of impact, and he respects hard data and the people behind the scenes who create positive results.

    Gates regularly posts calls for letters of inquiry in targeted areas, so prospective grantees can check out the foundation's grant opportunities to see if the foundation is actively seeking projects in particular program areas. Gates tends to collaborate with would-be grantees before any kind of full and formal proposal is officially submitted, though it does also announce Requests for Proposals. Grantseekers need to be aware that while many open LOI applications are reviewed on an ongoing basis throughout the year by Gates staffers, RFPs typically have deadlines. 

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