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Tonya Villafana

Vice President, Global Franchise Head, Infection, AstraZeneca

Dr. Tonya Villafana has dedicated her career to developing vaccines and drugs against some of the most difficult infectious diseases and sought to improve global health through significant contributions spanning the public, non-governmental and private sectors. In her current role as Vice President, Global Franchise Head, Infectious Diseases at AstraZeneca, Dr. Villafana has led the accelerated late-stage development of Vaxzevria (COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca), working closely with the University of Oxford, health authorities, the US government, US National Institutes of Health and COVAX (a partnership between CEPI, Gavi, WHO and UNICEF), to enable broad and equitable access to the vaccine around the world at no-profit during the pandemic. This complex development program has enabled supply of more than 1 billion doses in more than 170 countries around the world in just 18 months. 

During her 12 years with AstraZeneca, Dr. Villafana has led late-stage development for a number of vaccine and monoclonal antibody infectious disease programs including nirsevimab, a novel monoclonal antibody for the prevention of RSV disease in all infants. From 2011-2013, she was seconded to the World Bank and served as the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) World Bank Fellow. In this role, Dr. Villafana supported the Global Medicines Regulatory Harmonization Initiative with a focus on strengthening regulatory systems in Africa and co-authored the Bank’s position on Non-Communicable Diseases for the 2011 UN High Level Meeting on NCDs. Prior to joining AstraZeneca, Dr. Villafana was Director of Portfolio Management at the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI), where she had oversight of MVI’s vaccine candidate portfolio. She served as Chair of MVI’s Portfolio Management Committee and was a member of the RTS,S malaria vaccine team (GSK’s Mosquirix, which received positive scientific opinion from the EMA), leading teams for PATH in Tanzania and Gabon. From 2001-2006 Tonya was the Site Director of the HIV Vaccine Initiative at the Botswana Harvard School of Public Health AIDS Initiative Partnership for HIV Research and Education in Gaborone, Botswana, where she established clinical sites to conduct the first HIV vaccine studies in the southern African nation, in collaboration with the US NIH HIV Vaccine Trials Network. While in Botswana, she served on the Botswana National HIV Vaccine Committee collaborating with local and international institutions including WHO, the Debswana Mining company and Botswana Police Service.

Dr. Villafana has served on several important scientific committees and advisory boards including the Malaria Clinical Trials Alliance, International Society of Vaccines and the NIH Integrated Preclinical/Clinical Vaccine Development Program.  She has worked closely on global health initiatives with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, PAHO, WHO, IFPMA, and UK Development Agency for International Development. She has contributed to ISV meetings and participated in several over the years.  She was a member of the ISV Scientific Committee for the 2017 meeting held in Paris, where she helped to create a forum for young investigators interested in vaccines. Dr. Villafana is supportive of ISV’s role in training and elevating the work of young researchers, particularly those from developing countries.

She received a PhD in immunology from Weill Cornell University Graduate School of Medical Sciences and an MPH from Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Villafana is committed to developing novel vaccines and drugs to prevent diseases in the most vulnerable populations around the world.

ISV Fellow of the Month
United States