Throughout his long career, John-Arne Rottingen has gathered experience across multiple domains from discovery research to public health and diplomacy that led him to become the founding CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI). In January he took on the leadership of the UK-based foundation Wellcome, coinciding with its goal of reaching GPB 16 billion in spending.


Philanthropy has a critical role to play in catalysing and complementing public and private research spend to improve health globally

John-Arne Rottingen


Leading Wellcome’s Spending Ramp up

In January, Rottingen, a Norwegian national who began his career in basic research before transitioning into infectious disease epidemiology and global health, took over as CEO of Wellcome, a British charitable foundation focused on health research.  Replacing Paul Schreier, who had been filling in since Sir Jeremy Farrar stepped down in 2023, Rottingen will lead the organization that began with pharmaceutical pioneer Henry Wellcome in 1936.

“Wellcome believes in the power of science to build a healthier future for everyone, and that science delivers the greatest change through collaborative action across society,” said chair Julia Gillard. “John-Arne’s career and experience exemplify these beliefs. He has built a reputation as one of the world’s most effective and respected figures at the interface between science and advocacy at the highest global levels.”

Rottingen is no stranger to Wellcome, having worked closely with the organization on the founding of CEPI, a coalition it helped initiate. “Philanthropy has a critical role to play in catalysing and complementing public and private research spend to improve health globally,” he affirmed. “I know well from my own experience the power of the support Wellcome gives science and scientists, backing basic research and ensuring transformative research achieves impact in the world.”

Rottingen’s taking the reins at Wellcome coincides with the commitment the organization set out in 2022 of spending GPB 16 billion up until 2032. Within this goal, Wellcome plans to focus its research spend and advocacy on supporting research to tackle what the foundation considers today’s most urgent health challenges: mental health, infectious disease and the health impacts of climate crisis.

Wellcome, a self-funded organization that no longer has ties with GlaxoSmithKline (formerly GlaxoWellcome), has a growing investment portfolio that has reached GBP 38 billion. In 2021-22 Wellcome’s charitable expenditure to support science was GPB 1.4 billion.


Norwegian Roots

John-Arne Rottingen has held a number of public health leadership positions in Norway, namely as chief executive of the Research Council of Norway and executive director of Infection Control and Environmental Health at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.  “These roles allowed me to combine my understanding of global health policy and infectious disease epidemiology,” Rottingen said in 2020 PharmaBoardroom interview.

Most recently, he served as Ambassador for Global Health at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Norway, a position that was “at the intersection between politics and technical work,” and that highlighted Norway as “an important player in global health.”

In his former role, Rottingen was largely focused on the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), chaired by Norway and South Africa.


International Career

Beyond his home country, Rottingen’s career has on many occasions brought him onto the international stage. One such occasion was when he led the steering groups for the Ebola vaccine trial in Guinea. “Having collaborated with the WHO and worked in infectious diseases, I was involved in the global response to Ebola.”

That experience brought Rottingen to another milestone in his career, the creation of CEPI. “During that [Ebola response] process, we began mobilising finance, with the aim of establishing a new organization able to independently finance and develop vaccines for epidemics. This later became the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).”

Rottingen is also a former academic in Norway and abroad, having worked as a professor at the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health as well as at the University of Oslo.

Moreover, he has held many national and international board and advisory board roles at Science Europe, the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, PATH, Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP) and Medicines Patent Pool (MPP).


Photo credit: Wellcome