WHO Appoints Wellcome’s Farrar as Chief Scientist, ex-Tonga Minister as Chief Nurse
Dr Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome Trust

Wellcome Trust director Dr Jeremy Farrar will become the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Chief Scientist in the second quarter of 2023, according to announcements by the WHO and Wellcome on Tuesday.

Farrar’s second five-year term is ending next February and Wellcome Trust “have been planning the transition for some time, and a global search for a permanent CEO began earlier this year”, according to Julia Gillard, chair of the trust’s board.

“Jeremy’s leadership and insight have seen Wellcome achieve remarkable growth, realising ambitions in science and health on a scale not previously possible,” added Gillard.


“His vision has enabled Wellcome’s bold £16 billion strategy for the next decade, supporting scientific discovery and solutions to tackle the greatest health threats facing us all – mental health, escalating infectious disease and the health impacts of the climate crisis.”

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Farrar led Wellcome’s advocacy for rapid investment in research on testing, treatments and vaccines. He was a participant of the UK Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) from the start of the pandemic until his resignation in October 2021, and a member of the Principals Group of the WHO’s ACT-Accelerator. 

Global expertise

Gillard added that Wellcome was “delighted that the global health and science community will continue to benefit from his expertise and wisdom in his new role at the World Health Organization”.

Farrar, a clinician scientist, takes over from Dr Soumya Swaminathan in overseeing the WHO’s science division. Before joining Wellcome in 2013, he spent 17 years as director of the clinical research unit at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Viet Nam.


Farrar is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences UK, European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO), the National Academies USA and a Fellow of The Royal Society.

“We are living through fragile and uncertain times, with huge inequities to address,” said Farrar in a media statement.

However, he added that there had also been “breath-taking and life-changing advances in science and health” during the decade that he had been at Wellcome.

New Chief Nurse

Meanwhile, Dr Amelia Latu Afuhaamango Tuipulotu will become WHO’s Chief Nursing Officer at the start of 2023. In 2019, she became the first female Minister for Health of the Kingdom of Tonga, and before that was Tonga’s Chief Nursing Officer.


Previously, director of nursing at Vaiola Hospital, she was the first Tongan to receive a PhD  in Nursing. In 2019, she was appointed Honorary Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Sydney. From May 2020 to December 2022, Tuipulotu was a member of the WHO Executive Board.

As WHO’s Chief Nursing Officer, Tuipulotu will “champion, nurture and support nurses and midwives to ensure that their skills and experience are being well-utilized to strengthen health systems and to bolster their critical role in bringing patients, communities and national health systems closer together”, according to the WHO.

“I am delighted that Jeremy and Amelia will join WHO at a critical time in global public health when investment in both the health workforce and science is imperative to strengthening health systems and outbreak preparedness and prevention,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“As Chief Scientist, Jeremy will accelerate our efforts to ensure WHO, its Member States and our partners benefit from cutting-edge, life-saving science and innovations. As Chief Nursing officer, Amelia will ignite the all-important need not only to fill the gap in health workers worldwide but also to ensure they receive the support they need and deserve.”

Paul Schreier, Wellcome’s Chief Operating Officer, has been appointed interim CEO from 25 February 2023. 

Image Credits: Megha Kaveri/Health Policy Watch .

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