COVID-19 Alumni Stories: Christopher da Costa

Christopher da Costa (MSc Clinical Tropical Medicine, 1986 and PhD, 1993) will be joining the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations (CEPI) as a Vaccine Development Project Leader next month. He currently works as a consultant to a variety of US biotechnology companies and to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its special project known as the Biologics Effectiveness and Safety Initiative, or “BEST”. Here, he discusses his professional career and how COVID-19 has affected his work.

“COVID-19 has affected my work due to the increased demand for COVID-19 related consulting work, including clinical trial study designs, protocol reviews, and expert medical advice to biotechnology companies developing vaccines and therapeutics. I have been responding to the outbreak through assisting biotechnology companies with their vaccine and therapeutics clinical development efforts. There has been significant disruption to clinical work, but minimal disruption to consulting work, which is the bulk of what I do and is done remotely via telework. My Immunology training from LSHTM has been immensely helpful for my work as a medical advisor and consultant to biotechnology companies, particularly for cytokine-related therapeutics.”

“I am originally from The Gambia and, in fact, lived within a short walking distance to the LSHTM MRC Unit there at some point. After completing A-levels in The Gambia, I was accepted into Medical School at the University of Zambia, in Lusaka. After completing medical school and medical resident jobs at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka, I was accepted into the MSc Clinical Tropical Medicine programme at LSHTM and graduated in 1986.

“After some time spent working with Professor Richard Tedder at the then Middlesex Hospital as a Research Assistant in Virology, I was later awarded a Beit Memorial Medical Research Fellowship to pursue a PhD degree in Immunology at LSHTM under the supervision of Professor Keith McAdam. The subject of my PhD thesis was ‘The Humoral Immune Response in Tuberculosis in HIV- and non-HIV-infected infected patients with Tuberculosis’. While pursuing the PhD degree, I was also appointed to the position of Clinical Lecturer in the Department of Clinical Sciences at LSHTM and taught on the DTM&H and MSc Clinical Tropical Medicine degree courses. I also spent some time working at the then Hammersmith Hospital (Imperial College) in the laboratory of Professor Juraj Ivanyi and Dr Carlos Moreno conducting some of my PhD research work on TB immunology at the MRC TB unit. I graduated from LSHTM with a PhD in Immunology in 1993.

“After completing my PhD coursework and research I was appointed Clinical Lecturer and Honorary Registrar/Senior Registrar in Medical Microbiology at the University Hospital of Wales (Cardiff University).  After completing training in the UK, I moved to the USA for further training in Internal Medicine and Critical Care, worked in clinical practice for a few years, then joined the pharmaceutical industry. I have worked predominantly in vaccine and infectious diseases clinical development for over 15 years in several large pharmaceutical and smaller biotechnology companies, and have continued to practice clinical medicine part-time. I have most recently been engaged in working with several biotechnology companies as a consultant and medical advisor, including working on clinical trial protocol development for COVID-19 therapeutic trials. I will shortly be joining The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) as a Vaccine Program Leader.” 

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