IAVI is saddened by the passing of Philip Russell, M.D., a committed global health leader and founding member of this organization. Dr. Russell died peacefully surrounded by his family on January 21, 2021, at age 88.
Dr. Russell leaves a legacy as a vaccine scientist, a physician, a Major General in the U.S. Army, and a global health advocate. His contributions and commitment to vaccine research for infectious diseases, protecting human life globally, and shaping this organization are warmly remembered.
“At IAVI, we are grateful for Dr. Russell’s vision and leadership. His scientific accomplishments and professional contributions were significant, and they will continue to live on not only at IAVI but throughout the world,” said Mark Feinberg, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of IAVI. “We express our deepest sympathies to Dr. Russell’s family and to all those who held him dear. We dedicate ourselves to fulfilling his vision for a healthier, more equitable, and prepared world.”
In 1958, Dr. Russell earned his medical degree from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. During his 60-year career, he spent 30 years working for the U.S. Army Medical Corps and retired as Commandant of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command as a Major General. During his time serving the army, Dr. Russell was awarded the Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Service Medal. He continued to follow his passion for preventing infectious diseases and worked for the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research conducting research on dengue, malaria, hepatitis, and respiratory viruses. His work contributed to the development of many vaccines, including meningococcus, adenovirus, and hepatitis A and B vaccines. After this work, Dr. Russell gave 30 years of service to nonprofit organizations that were committed to preventing and fighting infectious diseases, such as Sabin Vaccine Institute, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children’s Vaccine Initiative, the International Vaccine Institute, the Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation, and the Malaria Vaccine Initiative.
In March 1994 in Bellagio, Italy, Dr. Russell gathered with scientists, public health officials, development specialists, and members of the HIV and philanthropic communities and generated the idea to create the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI). At the time, Dr. Russell was president of the Albert Sabin Vaccine Foundation and a professor at Johns Hopkins University. He was a founding board member of IAVI and was committed to IAVI’s original mission to support targeted research and development activities and to create a more enabling environment globally for HIV vaccine development.