Sir Andrew Whitty to co-lead WHO COVID-19 vaccine effort

Whitty will take a leave of absence, effective today, to co-lead a global effort by the World Health Organization (WHO) to accelerate the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.

vial of liquid labelled 'COVID-19 coronavirus' with a syringe on a blurred background

UnitedHealth Group have announced that Sir Andrew Whitty, the Group’s president and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of its health services platform, Optum, will co-lead a global effort by the World Health Organization (WHO) and other stakeholders to accelerate the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Prior to his appointment to UnitedHealth Group, Whitty was CEO and director of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). He serves on the Singapore Prime Minister’s Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council and is also an advisor to 8VC and Hatteras Venture Partners and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Andrew was knighted in 2012 for services to the UK economy.

“Andrew brings the perfect combination of deep global health expertise, innovation and operating skills and, above all, a passion for, and considerable success in, developing vaccines to drive this critical effort,” said David Wichmann, CEO of UnitedHealth Group. “The pride we take in Andrew’s willingness to serve during this global health crisis is exceeded only by our confidence in his ability to support the global vaccine development effort as quickly and effectively as possible.”

“I am deeply honoured to help lead this mission to seek a COVID-19 vaccine and am confident the people of Optum will remain relentless in their work to help their customers, communities and each other each day. I look forward to rejoining them on the other side of this crisis to continue helping make the health system work better for everyone,” said Whitty.

Whitty’s appointment to the position with WHO is effective April 20.

Whitty will take a leave of absence from UnitedHealth Group while leading the initiative and is expected to return to the company at the year end. During the temporary assignment, Wichmann will oversee Optum.