Director Viral Initiative

Geneva, Switzerland 
[Closing date: 30 April 2020


The Drugs for neglected diseases initiative (DNDi) is a collaborative, patients’ needs-driven, non-profit drug research and development (R&D) organization that is developing new treatments for neglected diseases (

Established in 2003, DNDi is a not-for-profit R&D organization that develops new, improved, and affordable medicines for deadly neglected diseases that afflict millions of the world’s poorest people.

DNDi focuses on discovering and developing treatments for sleeping sickness (human African trypanosomiasis), Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, filarial infections, paediatric HIV, mycetoma, and hepatitis C. Following an incubation period of 3 years delivered by DNDi, the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP) which focuses on developing new antibiotic treatments to address antimicrobial resistance (AMR), has set with DNDi a strong collaborative agreement, enabling the organizations to share resources, align strategy, and work on common projects.

Since its inception, DNDi has developed eight new treatments for neglected patients for malaria, sleeping sickness, visceral leishmaniasis, Chagas disease, paediatric HIV with several new drug candidates in the R&D pipeline including two for sleeping sickness. Our objective is to deliver 16 to 18 new treatments by 2023, ensure equitable access to these treatments, and build a robust pipeline of new drug candidates.

DNDi began working on viral diseases on pediatric HIV in 2012 and on hepatitis C in 2015. In HIV, DNDi aimed to develop a new fixed-dose combination for HIV-positive infants and young children to replace existing treatment options that are unpalatable and highly unsuitable for use in resource-limited settings. In hepatitis C, DNDi was seeking to foster a public health approach to the disease and expand access to highly effective direct-acting antivirals, including by developing a simple and affordable treatment combination that can be used for all strains of hepatitis C. Both drugs for pediatric HIV and hepatitis C are in a process of registration, respectively in 2019 and 2020. DNDi has expanded the scope of the viral diseases in 2019 with the introduction of Cryptococcal Meningitis as a major HIV co-infection to its portfolio and is exploring paths for further development and expansion in the new DNDi Business Plan 2023-2028 particularly in the field of HIV and with an on-going exploration on dengue and arbovisuses. These viral diseases related programmes are grouped together into the Viral Initiative since 2018. The Initiative team is primarily based in Geneva, with growing numbers of team members, consultants and partners based in Asia, Africa, USA, and Latin America.


Purpose of the position

The Director of the Viral Initiative takes the leadership in defining and supervising the programme strategy for the Initiative portfolio, identifying new opportunities in R&D and access to affordable drugs, and ensuring success of development of new therapies, while managing the Disease teams through supervision of the Heads of Disease.

The Director of the Viral Initiative has considerable autonomy to make decisions concerning the Initiative programmes and assumes end-to-end strategic accountability over the diseases within the scope of the Initiative.

The Director of the Viral Initiative is expected to deliver on programme objectives and ensure future growth of the pipeline. The Director is expected to represent DNDi at a global level, communicating at high level conferences and events to promote partnerships between private and public sector, and advocating for removing barriers to access to care and treatment. The Director is expected to maintain and grow a large network of stakeholders and partners.

The Director of the Initiative manages a team in Geneva and operations across 5 continents through DNDi regional offices and partners.


Specific job responsibilities

Viral Initiative R&D oversight

Accountable for developing and ensuring Initiative R&D strategy and project execution and review, following DNDi processes

  • Under the guidance of the R&D Director, and in collaboration with the Discovery Director, the Head of CMC, the Medical Director and the Head of Translation, ensure end-to-end planning, execution, and review of R&D projects
  • Accountable for the review of the disease strategies once a year by the Scientific Internal Review Committee and the Scientific Advisory Commitee (SAC)
  • Define the requirements from the R&D transverse teams (Discovery, CMC, Translation, Medical Affairs) to conduct good quality R&D programmes, in agreement with the R&D Director
  • Responsible to develop the Initiative R&D Partnership Strategy in collaboration with Business Development and the Director of Strategy and Operations
  • Lead the preparation of DNDi Scientific Advisory Committees (SAC) for the Initiative
  • Be a member of the Scientific Internal Review Committee by contributing actively to the discussion and by bringing topics for review and decision by the Committee
  • Supervise the global regulatory strategies on projects and implement them in collaboration with the relevant functions
  • Responsible for producing the Clinical Development Plan (CDP) and the Product Development Plan (PDP) in collaboration with relevant functions
  • Accountable for the clinical activities quality and complying with DNDi‘s standards
  • Ensure development projects run on time and according to plan
  • Accountable that all required staff members are trained on Good Clinical Practice (GCP)
  • Accountable for sound Initiative project portfolio management and project management practice
  • Orchestrate a complex programme management, composed of senior team management through clear delegation of roles and responsibilities, operations, and delivery planning and monitoring
  • Translate the disease strategies into effective operational plans and deliveries
  • Develop the annual Action Plan and budget per diseases as a contribution to the overall R&D budget, in coordination with Discovery, CMC, Translation, Medical Affairs, and other contributing functions
  • Develop the annual Risk assessment for the Viral Initiative and contribute to the global Risk assessment of DNDi, as part of the Action Plan process, participate to intermediate risk reviews and management
  • Supervise the detailed planning of annual work and business planning, with careful setting of timelines, resource optimization, and milestones

Engaging with external partners, representation, external affairs, and access activities

  • Responsible for the development and implementation of the access strategy for the products, in collaboration with the DNDi regional offices and international and local stakeholders/partners
  • Responsible for stakeholders and partner’s management and maintaining of key advocacy/government relationships
  • Identify new access partners for the Initiative as well as potential new programmes
  • In concert with the Executive Director and the Executive team, maintain good relations at high levels with stakeholders in the Initiative arena and keep abreast of political developments to ensure DNDi remains on top of the latest developments
  • Identify new sources of revenue for the Initiative and is at the heart of innovative new proposals pitched to existing and potential future donors. Ensure, in collaboration with relevant internal stakeholders, particularly Fundraising, management of relationships with donors
  • Collaborate with the Business Development team to develop the partnerships strategy. Identify new R&D partners for the Initiative as well as potential new programmes
  • Collaborate with the External Affairs team on setting the strategy and implementing activities related with Policy, Advocacy, Fundraising, and Communications
  • Representations responsibilities: s/he plays a key role as spokesperson and represents DNDi in high level conferences, key R&D meetings and major events. S/he will ensure management of relationships with key organizations such as WHO and others


Reporting line

  • The Director of the Viral Initiative reports to the R&D Director for all matters related to R&D and management of the Initiative, which encompass all clinical development activities, scientific and strategic R&D work, and has a secondary reporting line to the Executive Director for all matters related to Access (excepting clinical development – phase IV trials), and activities around policy and advocacy, public health strategies, and relationship with key stakeholders.
  • Supervise a senior team of Leaders in product development, clinical development, and access and is secondary supervisor to the Director of Business Development and Alliance Management


  • The Director of the Viral Initiative is a core member of the Executive team and interacts with his/her peers on strategic organizational matters
  • The Director of the Viral Initiative is the co-chair of the Access Committee, member of the Internal Scientific Research Committee, the R&D Coordination Committee, and the Policy and Advocacy Committee
  • The Director of the Viral Initiative works closely with the other R&D teams and the regional offices where the Initiative programmes are delivered, and with the External Relations teams on policy, advocacy, and fundraising
  • S/he interacts with Initiative Directors and members of the Extended Executive team to ensure organizational coherence and strategy alignment of initiative vs global strategy and business plans


Job requirements

Skills and attributes

  • Excellent ability to use initiative, prioritize, multi-task, and work well under pressure to meet deadlines
  • Very clear and systematic thinking that demonstrates strong judgment and problem solving competencies
  • Excellent communication skills in multicultural, multi-lingual environments
  • Excellent communication, and public speaking skills, ability to convince and represent DNDi at high level events
  • Ability to manage global multicultural teams
  • Highly organized and structured
  • Excellent analytical skills
  • Excellent ability to lead large strategic programmes
  • Excellent ability to manage organization wide programmes with budget management
  • Excellent strategic thinking and leadership abilities
  • Excellent management, negotiation, and advocacy skills
  • Excellent ability to exercise high degree of independence to ensure programme delivery and explore new areas of activities
  • Excellent ability to interact with internal and external stakeholders
  • Excellent ability to lead and motivate a team for optimum performance

Management skills

  • Ability to manage a team of senior leaders, located in Geneva and in regional offices, through empowerment and delegation
  • Proven track records in complex project and programme management
  • Ability to engage and inspire team members over DNDi’s vision, mission, and values

R&D technical skills

  • Knowledge of drug development
  • Knowledge of clinical research/development
  • Knowledge of key regulatory processes and regulations (GCP, GLP, and GMP)
  • Excellent knowledge of relevant diseases, including disease biology
  • Excellent technical writing skills (procedures, protocols, publications, and reports)


  • Minimum 10 years’ relevant experience at senior management level and 20 years of management experience
  • Experience with public health programmes and liaising with appropriate international (e.g. WHO) and government structures (MoH, regulatory bodies), preferably in several regions of the world is an asset
  • Experience in the pharmaceutical industry is an asset
  • Experience in infectious diseases R&D, ideally related viral infections, is an asset
  • Proven ability to work effectively in a team environment and matrix structure is critical
  • Experience building and leading teams in a startup environment
  • Proven track record in resource mobilization/business development


  • MD or Ph.D. in public health or related fields is required
  • Executive management training or managerial certification
  • Post graduate studies in life sciences, pharmacology or equivalent is an asset

Other requirements

  • Fluency in oral and written English
  • Proficiency in other languages desirable
  • Willingness and ability to travel globally
  • Excellent knowledge of Microsoft Suite


Other information

  • Status: full time – permanent role   


To apply

  • Deadline for application: accepting applications until 30 April 2020
  • Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted 
  • Application submission for this position may close early if we have enough suitable applicants