Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Taking the Air out of Pneumonia: A Profile of Dr. Keith Klugman

January 19, 2017

Dr. Keith Klugman

With multiple professorships, decades of experience leading high-level committees, and hundreds of scientific publications to his name, Dr. Klugman is one of the foundation’s most prolific experts in infectious disease. Since assuming the role of director of pneumonia in 2013, he has led the foundation’s efforts to combat the leading cause of child mortality worldwide. 

Dr. Klugman partners with the Vaccine Delivery team on issues such as vaccine market dynamics and the delivery of alternate dosing of PCV that can continue to ensure herd immunity to pneumonia. He also works across foundation departments to support grantees in the development of next-generation pneumococcal conjugate vaccines, to work with drug manufacturers to lower vaccine cost, and to support novel research to determine the pneumonia risks posed by factors such as under-nutrition, hypoxia, and lack of access to antibiotics.

Advocacy is also central to the Pneumonia team’s mission.  Dr. Klugman has expanded his team to leverage advocacy efforts such as World Pneumonia Day and to encourage policymakers to increase domestic funding for pneumonia vaccines and immunization activities. 

This multi-pronged approach has yielded significant results. Against the backdrop of countless global health challenges, efforts to combat pneumonia provide a wellspring of inspiration. In the six years since the start of the Decade of Vaccines, PCV-10 and PCV-13 have reached more than 70 million children in 54 Gavi-eligible countries—proof positive of the transformative impact partnerships can have on expanded immunization.

Low-income countries have made great strides in preventing pneumonia-related deaths in recent years, thanks to these introductions. Today, the burden of pneumonia continues to shift to middle-income countries, which collectively will soon bear the majority of the world’s unvaccinated children. India—home to one-fifth of the world’s children—is set to introduce PCV-13 this year, a remarkable step that has been years in the making and that Dr. Klugman heralds as a game changer. Unfortunately China—the world’s most populous country—has yet to take this step.

It all presents a tall order, but Dr. Klugman is bullish on the future: He considers the widespread introduction of PCV-10 and PCV-13 as a tremendous accomplishment of the Decade of Vaccines, and sees great promise ahead for research, advances, and innovations that can save even more lives. 

One study the foundation is supporting is being conducted by Professor Heather Zar, Head of Pediatric Pulmonology at the University of Cape Town. She is following 1,000 pregnant women and their children for their first five years of life to determine the long-term impact of pneumonia on lung function. “The study is already yielding fascinating data that might eventually influence our understanding of pneumonia, and impact our approach to chronic lung disease in kids and adults,” Dr. Klugman says.

Click here to learn more about the foundation’s work on pneumonia.

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