Katherine L O’Brien


Senior Advisor, Infectious Disease


My interests center around the clinical and epidemiological aspects of vaccine preventable bacterial and viral infections of children. My research focuses on nasopharyngeal colonization, disease rates, serotype distribution and vaccine prevention of Streptococcus pneumoniae both domestically and internationally, including the evaluation and introduction of pneumococcal vaccines in the developing world. In addition to my focus on pneumococcal disease control, is an interest in the epidemiology and control efforts (through vaccination of infants and mothers, use of biologics and risk factor reduction) for pneumonia, acute lower respiratory infections, meningitis and sepsis.  Pathogens of particular interest for me include RSV, influenza, group A Streptococcus and group B Streptococcus.

My field work has focused on conducting large phase III IND trials of novel vaccines to control the above mentioned diseases, as well as phase IV studies of vaccine impact.  Domestically I work with American Indian tribes to identify and assess interventions to reduce the disproportionate morbidity from infectious diseases in these populations.  Globally I work largely with researchers and public health officials in low-income countries of south Asia and Africa to assure that life-saving interventions are available and optimally implemented.  In addition to field based work, our work has also included modeling of global burden of disease for these pathogens, strategic analyses that move research findings into the policy arena on the optimal use of vaccines, and more basic epidemiologic work on the role of pathogens and risk factors in the development of pneumonia.  

I serve as the Executive Director of the International Vaccine Access Center and as the Associate Director of the Center for American Indian Health.  Presently I am a member of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) advising the World Health Organization on global vaccine policy.   

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