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Katherine O'Brien

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Education  McGill University

Katherine L. O'Brien is a recognized international expert in the areas of pneumococcal epidemiology, pneumococcal vaccine trials and impact studies, and surveillance for pneumococcal disease. She is also known as an expert in infectious diseases (including pneumonia and diarrheal diseases) in American Indian populations. She is a pediatric infectious disease physician, epidemiologist, and a Professor at The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the Department of International Health. She is the head of the Infectious Disease Group at the Center for American Indian Health and is the Deputy Director of the International Vaccine Access Center, an organization dedicated to accelerating global access to life-saving vaccines.



O'Brien earned her medical degree at McGill University in Montreal. She earned her Master of Public Health from The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.


Following her residency in pediatrics and a fellowship in pediatric infectious disease at Johns Hopkins, O'Brien joined the bacterial Respiratory Diseases Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an Epidemic Intelligence Officer. She returned to Johns Hopkins in 1998 to join the Center for American Indian Health where she leads the Center’s Infectious Disease group conducting clinical trials of vaccines for diseases of importance to American Indian tribes; she also serves as the Deputy Director of Research for PneumoADIP which aims to accelerate the development and introduction of pneumococcal vaccines for children globally. She has also worked on rotavirus disease, conducting a large phase III trial of rotavirus vaccine among American Indian children. Most recently she has completed a 6-year trial of a monoclonal antibody, motavizumab, against RSV lower and upper respiratory infections among otherwise healthy American Indian infants who are known to be a significantly increased risk of RSV hospitalization than children in the general US population. During the PneumoADIP from 2004 to 2009, she focused on strategic issues of the pneumococcal research agenda and providing leadership to special studies such as the Pneumococcal Global Serotype Project (GSP) and the Hib and Pneumococcal Global Disease Burden Project (Hib/SP GDB). The GSP elucidates the role that different serotypes of S.pneumoniae play in causing pneumococcal disease in different regions around the world. This research is critical to understanding pneumococcal vaccine needs and potential efficacy in different regions. The Hib/SP GDP established far more reliable estimates of the burden of disease of both S.pneumoniae and H.influenzae on a country level globally. This research is essential to understanding the scope of these diseases which are the leading causes of pneumonia, an illness that kills approximately 2 million children under five each and every year. Since 2009, she has served as the Deputy Director of IVAC, providing strategic direction and a leading role in projects such as the PERCH study which aims to establish pneumonia etiology among children less than 5 years of age in seven countries around the world, the PCV Dosing Landscape Project which aims to evaluate the relative impact of various PCV dosing regimens on disease, immunogenicity and colonization and to thereby provide guidance to WHO for vaccine schedule decisions, and the PCV Serotype Replacement Project aiming to more fully understand the evidence on serotype replacement following PCV implementation.

O'Brien's work domestically and internationally has focused on epidemiologic and vaccine studies of pneumococcal disease; rotavirus; Haemophilus influenzae; respiratory syncytial virus; influenza; and Helicobacter pylori. Since 2012 she has served as a member of the World Health Organization's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunizations. She has authored over 100 original articles as well as book chapters and review papers.


  • 2011: President's Early Career Award in Science and Engineering (PECASE)
  • 2008: Sabin Vaccine Institute, Young Investigator Award.
  • 2003: Nominee, Outstanding Scientific Contribution to Public Health Award, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • 2001: CDC, Honor Award for outstanding scientific contributions to public health, Group B Streptococcal Prevention Team
  • 1999: CDC, Nakano Citation, for the Haiti diethylene glycol poisoning investigation.
  • 1998: Secretary’s Distinguished Service Award, Department of Health and Human Services
  • 1997: CDC Mackel Award for an epidemic investigation which best combines epidemiology and laboratory work.
  • 1997: CDC Group Honor Award for The Haiti Emergency Response Team
  • 1997: Food and Drug Administration Group Recognition Award for meritorious service in the investigation of an international public health crisis which was associated with the contamination of pharmaceuticals by diethylene glycol.
  • References

    Katherine O'Brien Wikipedia

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