An interview with TDR’s new Director, John Reeder

TDR news item
2 April 2012

TDR Director John Reeder with Pan American Health Organization Director Mirta Roses Periago
TDR Director John Reeder with Pan American Health Organization Director Mirta Roses Periago

TDR’s new Director, John Reeder, is overseeing the development of a new strategy that will create a smaller and more focused organization. He has been working with staff, co-sponsors, governing bodies, funders and other key stakeholders to identify the unique values and skills that TDR can bring to the global health research field. He wants to provide more impact and value to the low and middle income countries burdened with infectious diseases of poverty like malaria and river blindness. One of the ways he is doing this is by engaging more closely with the World Health Organization’s regional offices. Recently he met with the Pan American Health Office’s Director Mirta Roses to discuss research strategies and collaboration – the first of visits to all regional offices.

Under development is the new TDR strategy, which will be reviewed by WHO leadership and TDR’s two top governing bodies – the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee from 16-19 April, and the Joint Coordinating Board 18-20 June.

Here are some early comments from John Reeder on a variety of topics as he began his tenure here.

On TDR values and the focus on people and institutions in the countries where the infectious diseases have the greatest burden

"TDR has really stood on some solid values -- having the agenda in the disease endemic countries, investment in capacity and leadership, driving the science through engagement with people in country -- that’s a really strong theme. What I want to bring forward into the next stage of TDR is a real focus on the people and institutions in country and still be the organization that looks at those niches and areas where other people are not investing time and effort to research but yet have important public health implications."

On harmonised and collaborative partnerships

"TDR has always worked through partnerships with other people. It has a real opportunity to assist in priority setting and looking at the landscape, what people are working on, what the gaps are, and trying to advocate for those areas or moving into the needed area of research. It’s a great opportunity, a vibrant environment, and I think it makes it very important to have close communication with other partners, making sure the work is harmonised in a synergistic way rather than a competitive way."

On changing policy and practice through research

"In a way it’s quite personal for me. I’ve worked in a very large spectrum but one of the things I see time and time again is the gap between publishing a paper and anything changing in terms of people’s health. And further down the spectrum, when you come into more practical applications like new drugs or diagnostics, there is a big gap between a good drug, a good diagnostic, and how that can be applied. So as we are trying to drive innovation into actual healthcare, as well as how we harness innovation and encourage innovation, I like to see TDR working as a continuum, not isolating itself into parts of research or parts of operational research, but set up to allow us to drive from good evidence to good research to improving health in the country."