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Mectizan Expert Committee

The Mectizan Expert Committee (MEC) is an independent body of seven internationally recognized experts in the fields of public health, tropical disease, and ophthalmology established by Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J., U.S.A.* to provide technical oversight of the Mectizan Donation Program. With the exception of the Chair, Mectizan Expert Committee Members are appointed for two-to-three-year terms and meet at least once annually.


Dr. Gilbert Burnham, Chair of the Mectizan Expert Committee

Dr. Burnham is a Professor in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in the department of international health. He has extensive field experience in onchocerciasis control and has worked on a number of World Health Organization (WHO) onchocerciasis-related working groups, including the WHO Ivermectin Subcommittee and Scientific Working Group on Filariasis and the WHO Onchocerciasis Operational Research Task Force. He also provided assistance to the WHO Special Program for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases analyzing the impact of ivermectin on onchocercal skin disease. Dr. Burnham worked in Malawi to establish a Mectizan distribution program and eye care project, and he conducted an evaluation of the Malawi onchocerciasis control program for the International Eye Foundation. He also worked in Uganda on an onchocerciasis control consultation for Deutsche Gesellschaft Technische Zusammenarbeit. Dr. Burnham has published a number of articles on onchocerciasis and other tropical diseases, including an editorial commentary in the Lancet on the use of ivermectin in loiasis-endemic areas, a topic frequently discussed during MEC/AC meetings.

Dr. Mary Amuyunzu-Nyamongo

Dr. Nyamongo is currently the Executive Director and co-founder of the African Institute for Health and Development (AIHD), an organization based in Nairobi, Kenya that conducts research, training and advocacy on health and development issues.

Dr. Amuyunzu-Nyamongo is also the African Regional Coordinator of Health Promotion with the Global Program of Health Promotion Effectiveness, which is funded mainly by the Center for Disease Control through the International Union of Health Promotion and Education. She is also engaged in collaborative research with the International Center for Research on Women, the Swedish Agency for International Development, and the Poverty and Economic Policy Network.

Prior to joining AIHD, Dr. Amuyunzu-Nyamongo was a research scientist with the African Population and Research Center. She also served as a program officer with the Population Council and a senior program officer with the African Medical and Research Foundation. Her first job was with the Kenya Medical Research Institute as a research officer.

Dr. Amuyunzu-Nyamongo has provided consultancy services for the government of Kenya and international development partners on various activities, including the development of a National Social Protection Framework and Policy, Poverty Social Impact Analysis, and the Kenya Country Social Analysis. She has also engaged in program monitoring and evaluation activities. Dr. Amuyunzu-Nyamongo has published widely in the areas of health and development, focusing on HIV/AIDS, gender, youth, mothers and children under-five, rural and urban poverty, and health promotion in general. She also serves on various international committees/boards, including the World Health Organization.

Dr. Kapa D. Ramaiah

Dr. Ramaiah has over 30 years of experience in vectorborne disease control working with the Indian Council of Medical Research’s Vector Control Research Centre (VCRC) in Pondicherry, India from 1980-2012. During his time at VCRC he completed his PhD from the University of Pondicherry focused on the transmission dynamics of lymphatic filariasis (LF). His work on collaborative research projects with WHO TDR has contributed greatly to the global evidence base for: evaluating impact of mass drug administration on infection and transmission, methods of LF surveillance, the social and economic impact of LF, and the global burden of disease due to LF. The outcomes of his work have resulted in a total of 70 publications.

Dr. Ramaiah has also worked with WHO in Geneva and the Western Pacific Regional office as well as RTI International providing technical support to over 13 national LF elimination programmes. He understands all aspects of LF elimination programme development implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. He has recently served on the Regional Dossier Review Group of the South East Asia Regional Office of WHO to critically assess elimination dossiers submitted and advise WHO on whether or not to validate the claims of achieving elimination of LF as a public health problem.

Dr. Frank Richards, FAAP 

Dr. Richards is an expert in parasitic and tropical diseases who has worked extensively in Latin America and Africa. The health programs he directs at The Carter Center have helped to provide more than 250 million treatments for parasitic disease in 11 countries over the last 15 years. The malaria program helped provide nearly 20 million insecticide-treated bed nets in Nigeria, Ethiopia and Hispaniola.

Dr. Richards spent 23 years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where he reached the rank of captain in the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service.  During his entire career he focused on parasitic disease control and eradication in the Americas and Africa. He worked on schistosomiasis control in Egypt, Guinea worm eradication in Cameroon, lymphatic filariasis elimination in Haiti and Nigeria, and malaria control in Guatemala, Hispaniola, Nigeria, and Ethiopia. Dr. Richards’ particular expertise is in onchocerciasis (river blindness) and the delivery of Mectizan® tablets (donated by Merck) through mass drug administration (MDA) programs. He has worked with the Guatemalan Mectizan distribution program since 1987 and in the Nigerian Mectizan distribution program since 1992. He participated in the launching and operations of two major regional river blindness programs: the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (launched in 1992), which reaches six countries in the Americas, and the African Program for Onchocerciasis Control (launched in 1996), reaching 19 countries in Africa.  Dr. Richards left CDC to join The Carter Center in 2005, where he directs the River Blindness, Lymphatic Filariasis, Schistosomiasis/Soil Transmitted Helminth Programs.  He directed The Carter Center’s Malaria Program from 2008-2014. Dr. Richards earned his B.A. degree from Williams College and his medical degree from Cornell University. He completed a residency in pediatrics at the University of Southern California/Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and his fellowship in epidemiology as a CDC Epidemic Intelligence Officer, and a fellowship in infectious diseases at Emory University Medical School.

Dr. Richards’ awards include the Williams College Bicentennial Medal, the Commissioned Corps Outstanding Service Medal, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service, the National Medical Fellowships Pioneer Award, and the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene’s Bailey K. Ashford Medal. Dr. Richards has authored or co-authored more than 180 articles, letters, and chapters. He holds faculty appointments at the Emory Rollins School of Public Health (Department of Global Health), and the Emory School of Medicine (Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease). He is the Chair of the Program Coordinating Committee of OEPA, the immediate past Chair of the NDGO Group for Onchocerciasis Elimination, and a member of the WHO NTD Strategic and Technical Advisory Group, the Mectizan Expert Committee, and the Executive Group of the Global Alliance for the Elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis.

Dr. Mamadou Traore 

Professor Mamadou Souncalo Traoré is Director of the National Institute for Research in Public Health and Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at Bamako University, Mali. He graduated as a Medical Doctor in Mali in 1982. He did a Master in Community Health in Developing Countries and a PhD in Epidemiology and Population Sciences at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine where he was awarded the Woodruff Medal in 1994. Earlier, he was National Coordinator of Schistosomiasis Control Programme and worked for many years on schistosomiasis research and control. From 1999 to 2002 he was British Detached National Expert at the European Commission Research Directorate General in Brussels.

Back in Mali in 2003 he was successively Director of the National Agency for Hospital Evaluation in 2003; National Director of Health at the Ministry of Health in 2004; Head of the Department of Public Health Research and Training at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Bamako in 2006, where he launched the first Master in Public Health Programme in Mali ; Special advisor to the Director of the National Institute for Research in Public Health in 2010; General Secretary at the Ministry of Health of Mali in 2011.

During the last 20 years, he acted as member of several Expert advisory and consultative committees of WHO and other organisations. These include the WHO/TDR Taskforce on Healthy School-aged Children in 1994, the WHO/TDR Steering Committee on Applied Field Research in 1995, The MIM/TDR Taskforce on Malaria Research Capability Strengthening in Africa in 2003; the Scientific Committee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the review of proposals on the Intermittent Preventive Treatment of Malaria in Infants (IPTI) in 2004; the Nouna Health Research Center Scientific Committee in 2007; the WHO/TDR Scientific Advisory Committee on Drug Development and Evaluation for Helminths and other Neglected Tropical Diseases in 2009-2010; the Expert Advisory Committee of the Onchocerciasis Control Programme in Africa, 2005; the Technical Consultative Committee of the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control in 2010; the Strategic, Technical Advisory Group–NTD/WHO; and the Mectizan Donation Program Expert Committee in 2012.

He is author of more than 40 articles in international journals.

Dr. Tom Unnasch 

Dr. Thomas Unnasch is the Department Chair and a Distinguished USF Health Professor in the Department of Global Health at the College of Public Health. His research has focused upon vector-borne diseases (see “Florida Trend” article) and the human filarial infections. The laboratory concentrates upon research areas that have a direct impact upon disease control and elimination programs targeting vector-borne pathogens worldwide. The laboratory is involved in developing new tools to enhance the efficiency of the surveillance activities carried out by onchocerciasis (river blindness) control and elimination programs in Africa and Latin America. The laboratory has been instrumental in the development of molecular-based methods for the detection of the river blindness parasite Onchocerca volvulus both in humans and in its blackfly vector. Dr. Unnasch assists these programs, both in the development of diagnostic methods as well as in the development of mathematical algorithms to use data collected from screening pools of vectors to quantify the intensity of exposure in the affected human population. He also works closely with collaborators in Africa and Latin America to develop spatial models to predict zones which are at risk for onchocerciasis using remote sensing data and to develop more efficient methods for the collection of vector blackflies to monitor transmission of onchocerciasis. In the field of arboviral infections, his laboratory is studying the ecology of Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus (EEEV) in the Southeastern USA, concentrating on elucidating the dynamic processes in the host-vector relationship that are drivers in the development of EEEV enzootics and epidemics. The ultimate goal of these studies is to develop a predictive model for habitats that are most likely to represent EEEV enzootic foci. Such a model could be used to most efficiently target the surveillance and vector control efforts of the mosquito control programs throughout Florida and the Southeastern USA.

Dr. Laurent Yaméogo 

Dr. Yaméogo, the 2015 Merck Mectizan Award winner,  served as coordinator for the WHO’s African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) from 2002-2015. He has expertise as a hydrobiologist entomologist and a wealth of skills related to river blindness and lymphatic filariasis including working with endemic communities, laboratory work, and technical assignments that have informed policy decisions on program implementation. In 2013 the government of Benin honored him as Officer for services to improve the health of the people of Africa. In 2015 he was nominated as a member of the WHO Guideline Development Group and helped develop the “Guidelines for Stopping Mass Drug Administration and Verifying Elimination of Human Onchocerciasis.” He also served as a member of the WHO AFRO Working Group formed to develop the Expanded Special Program on NTDs (ESPEN). In 2016, he was appointed as a member of Burkina Faso’s National Onchocerciasis Elimination Committee and a member of the francophone network for the control/elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases. After retiring from WHO in 2017, he has been working as a consultant with the World Bank in Burkina Faso on NTDs to strengthen the private health sector.

Dr. Sam Zaramba

Dr. Sam Zaramba is the former Director-General of Health Services, Ministry of Health, Uganda. Specializing in health services management, Dr. Zaramba previously served as Director of Health Services in charge of public health and clinical services in the Ministry of Health. Dr. Zaramba has worked extensively with WHO and served as Chair of the WHO Executive Board in 2009-2010. He is currently a member of the WHO Advisory Group on the Ebola Virus Disease Response.

He is a graduate of Makerere Medical School in Uganda and has studied at the University of Birmingham, UK; Boston University, USA; and Harvard University, USA.

Liaison Organizations

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Global Alliance for LF Elimination
Onchocerciasis Elimination NGO Group
Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas
LF Regional Program Review Group

*Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J., U.S.A., is known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada.