“I first learned about dengue as a graduate student studying virology.  It became more than just another virus to me when my first job out of grad school was working on a recombinant subunit dengue vaccine at Hawaii Biotech.”

“I was trained as a molecular virologist with a medical technology background. Following my graduate work I made the decision to join industry rather than following an academic route as my interests were always more focused on translational rather than basic research and so have spent the last 25+ years working in industry on vaccine development. I have transitioned back and forth between the small biotech (Hawaii Biotech) and large pharma (GSK Biologicals and MSD) environments and actually really enjoy both, although they are very different.”

“Over the last decades I have focused on vaccines for infectious diseases, primarily on viral vaccines but have occasionally supported vaccines for bacterial targets as well.  Dengue vaccine development has been one constant in my career – while I have worked on many other targets, I have been involved in dengue vaccine development non-stop since 1993.  I do hope to eventually contribute to the licensure of a safe and effective dengue vaccine and to help make a difference for so many people impacted by dengue every year.

“I joined MSD in 2010 when MSD acquired the Hawaii Biotech recombinant subunit dengue vaccine candidate.  I joined MSD initially to support the evaluation of that vaccine candidate and ultimately transitioned to the role of Product Development Team Leader for the dengue and Ebola vaccines at MSD.”

“I lead cross-functional, cross-divisional teams that are responsible for product development.  That includes responsibility for defining the strategy and tactics to develop a product, and then executing the plan from early development through licensure and the post-licensure space.  My teams include experts in their respective fields (e.g. manufacturing, regulatory affairs, clinical development, safety, etc.) who work together to advance products that aim to help to protect people from devastating diseases such as dengue and Ebola.  It is both people and product oriented and always driven by the science – the perfect mix from my perspective.”

“The huge impact that vaccines can have on global public health is tremendously appealing.  If you look at history and the assessment of the impact that vaccines have had in terms of lives saved it is mind boggling.  Joining MSD in 2010 and learning more about the amazing work done by Dr. Maurice Hilleman has further inspired me, as it highlights the impact that a single person can have on the world.  His example and the example of so many pioneers in the vaccine field inspires me on a daily basis.  Recently I have had the privilege to be part of a global collaboration to develop an Ebola vaccine and seeing the incredible sacrifices made by so many to respond to Ebola outbreaks, and the critical way in which a vaccine can make a difference in that response, has driven home how important the work that we do to develop vaccines truly is.”

“I am lucky enough to never have experienced dengue myself, but working in the field of tropical medicine for decades I have seen the impact on so many people.  With my home in Hawaii I have seen the fear that even a small outbreak can bring to a community.  I can only imagine what it feels like to live in a highly endemic area during a major epidemic, but imaging that provides me with a sense of urgency around vaccine development.”

“Product development is all about challenges and figuring out ways to overcome them, so I view my job as primarily problem solving.  Dengue vaccines have been particularly challenging given the natural history of dengue, but all of us in the field continue to learn and innovate and look for ways to overcome the issues.  There is no guarantee that we can overcome the challenges, but that does not stop the effort.”

“I love history so if I weren’t a scientist I would probably be doing some sort of historical research.  I particularly love when history and science intersect and would love to think that I could have written books like the amazing books written by Paul Offit and others on the history of science of vaccines.”

Beth-Ann Coller
Executive Director, Global Clinical Development – Vaccines
& Product Development Team Leader, Dengue Vaccine, at MSD

First published to Facebook on 27 July 2020