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The University of Oxford’s commitment to tackling major global health challenges has been strengthened following the endowment of a chair in global health and clinical development. The new permanent post was made possible by a £5 million donation from Brazilian healthcare organisation SAIL for Health.

Marina Domenech, co-founder of SAIL for Health (left) together with Professor Sue Ann Costa Clemens (right)

The SAIL for Health Chair of Global Health and Clinical Development will be held by Professor Sue Ann Costa Clemens CBE, a medical doctor and infectious disease specialist with over 25 years’ experience in clinical development.

Throughout her career Professor Costa Clemens has contributed to the development of more than 20 globally licenced vaccines and pharmaceutical products, including for human papillomavirus, rotavirus, meningitis B and pneumococcus. She was part of the development of the novel oral polio vaccine nOPV2, the first vaccine to get WHO emergency use authorisation, and served as principal investigator of the Brazilian arm of the Oxford-AstraZeneca SARS-CoV2 vaccine trial, which provided nearly half of the subjects needed to prove efficacy of the vaccine against COVID-19.

Professor Costa Clemens also works to advance education and support capacity-building for young scientists from lower- and middle-income countries, including through the creation of the first worldwide Master in Vaccinology and Drug Development at the University of Siena.

Professor Costa Clemens currently leads the Oxford Vaccine Group for Latin America, which sits within the Department of Paediatrics. Through capacity-building, clinical development and advocacy, the group seeks to foster innovation to improve health and access strategies in the fight against infectious diseases.  

As the SAIL for Health Chair of Global Health and Clinical Development, Professor Costa Clemens will broaden and strengthen Oxford’s research in Latin America and develop the group into the University’s first tailor-made research and educational hub for clinical development there – a place where young scientists and future leaders can learn about the ethical, operational and regulatory aspects of vaccine and drug development. The team will also provide training in disease surveillance and risk mapping using epidemiological data, with the aim of identifying early infectious disease outbreaks and preventing them from developing into epidemics or pandemics.

The permanent endowment of the SAIL for Health Chair will ensure that Oxford University’s focus on capacity-building through research and teaching in Latin America is sustained.

Commenting on the news of the endowment, Professor Costa Clemens said: "I am very honoured, as a female physician from Brazil, to be the first post-holder of the SAIL for Health Chair in Global Health and Clinical Development. The aim of the new position is totally aligned with my life mission as a healthcare professional and educator to increase years of life, to improve the quality of those years gained, and to foster equal access to preventive and therapeutic medicine for all. Through responsible and quality capacity-building we will help the world to develop the researchers of tomorrow."

Professor Georg Holländer, Hoffmann and Action Medical Research Professor of Developmental Medicine and Head of the Department of Paediatrics, said: "We are extremely delighted to have Professor Sue Ann Costa Clemens as the inaugural SAIL for Health Chair of Global Health and Clinical Development and to build up an important presence of the department and the University in Latin America. The hub in Rio will provide unprecedented opportunities for teaching and research. We are very thankful to SAIL for Health for creating this opportunity, which is a first for our University."

Based in São Paulo, Brazil, SAIL for Health acts as a facilitator between the scientific community and industry in Latin America to promote initiatives that accelerate the development of new therapies and enable access to health for all. The gift is the largest received by the University from a Brazilian donor to date, and the first to enable the endowment of a chair.

Marina Domenech, Co-founder of SAIL for Health, said: "I am very proud to lead the first Brazilian institution that endows in perpetuity a chair in the Medical Sciences Division at the University of Oxford. This gift was inspired by the work of a Brazilian scientist, Professor Sue Ann Costa Clemens, and her impact on global health. Her work during a global health crisis is an example of what can be done with the right focus and personal engagement, investment, public-private partnership and ethics. This chair at the University of Oxford will enable better health outcomes in Brazil and Latin America through education and by fostering innovation in science and technology."