Open Philanthropy is looking for Program Officers to lead our work on global health research and development (R&D).
Historically, health technologies like vaccines and drugs have saved millions of lives and improved people’s health around the world. However, diseases primarily affecting the world’s poorest people receive much less R&D spending relative to health burden than diseases affecting wealthier people. This discrepancy has left many interesting and challenging technical problems unsolved, which have enormous stakes. We believe that preventable deaths and ill health caused by neglected diseases will persist for decades without further investment, and that funding such global health R&D is competitive with the best opportunities available to Open Philanthropy.
We plan to build a global health R&D team over time and eventually hire more grantmaking staff. Right now, we are hoping to hire an excellent person or several excellent people to lay the foundation for that team. As a result, this job description is intentionally relatively broad and covers a range of potential outcomes in terms of scope and seniority. It is meant to reflect our willingness to shape the role around specific candidates. If you apply for this role, you should expect to have more concrete discussions about your planned strategy and purview in the later stages of the application process.
About the Global Health R&D Program
Open Philanthropy’s scientific research grantmaking began in 2016, led by Chris Somerville and Heather Youngs. In recent years, roughly half of that program’s budget ($25M/year of $50M/year) has been spent in areas that we would classify as global health R&D. Based on our early evaluation of that portfolio’s performance to date, and the remaining opportunities for impact in global health R&D, we have decided to significantly increase our spending in the area.
We are looking for Program Officers to lead our expansion into new diseases, product classes, and later-stage clinical trials. You will be responsible for a new budget line and strategy at Open Philanthropy, and will collaborate and share knowledge/ideas with our existing science team (currently made up of Chris, Heather, Senior Program Officer Jacob Trefethen and Senior Program Associate Alex Bowles). Over the coming years, we intend to become one of the largest funders of global health R&D.
We anticipate the program will fund the development of vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutic drugs, and vector control tools for diseases with large global health burdens, such as tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis C, diarrheal diseases, helminth diseases, and more.
We expect a new Program Officer to start with a grantmaking budget in the range of $20M-$25M per year, and we expect to expand our total global health R&D giving to $100M+ per year in the next few years. A successful candidate will help shape this growth, and over time senior candidates may oversee a larger budget or manage other grantmaking staff. We plan to commit to this area for five years before doing a deep review to evaluate our impact, which could result in continuing the program, expansion, or exiting the area.
About the Position
Our Program Officers serve as leaders in their fields, and we give them high levels of autonomy in the grantmaking process. You would be responsible for developing our grantmaking strategy, substantially expanding our global health R&D portfolio, and forming and maintaining relationships with grantees and others in the space.
We intend this position to involve grantmaking across several disease and product areas. On the application form, you are able to express expertise or a preference for any of the four options below. We expect significant growth in spending in each category, and are aiming to build a team with complementary and diverse skills, experiences, and responsibilities. (In other words, you do not need to be able to check every box below!)
- Cross-disease R&D generalist
- Malaria tools (vector control, vaccine, and chemoprevention R&D)
- Tuberculosis tools (vaccine and diagnostic R&D)
- Vaccine development (cross-disease)
- Set the program’s strategy and direction based on your own analysis of expected health benefits, by choosing which diseases, products, and clinical trials to prioritize. Solicit and investigate new ideas or approaches and continue to build and update this strategy as conditions evolve.
- Source and investigate promising grant opportunities to accelerate broad availability of, and access to, new global health technologies.
- Establish and maintain relationships with current and prospective grantees, funders, and other stakeholders in the field.
- Follow up with grantees periodically and keep abreast of their progress to inform our evaluation efforts.
- Represent Open Philanthropy at relevant external meetings and conferences.
Desired Skills and Experience
- Scientific or technical background related to global health, drug/vaccine development, mathematical/health modeling, biological sciences, chemistry, or medicine (an advanced degree in a relevant field is helpful, though not strictly required). A strong candidate will also have experience with, and/or deep knowledge of, clinical trials.
- Knowledge related to the field of global health R&D. You should be aware of many of the current players and potentially already have relationships with several of them.
- Creativity and willingness to think broadly about paths to impact, including building new fields and institutions.
- Commitment to maximizing impact per dollar granted, and to improving the lives of the least economically well-off people in the world.
- Strong analytical and quantitative skills – sufficient to assess the cost-effectiveness of potential grant opportunities and to critically evaluate assessments by others.
- Strong interpersonal skills, and the ability to work effectively with ideologically and culturally diverse partner organizations.
- Excellent written and oral communication skills, especially the ability to explain your views clearly.
- Ability to travel periodically (e.g. for occasional conferences).
The ideal candidate for this position will possess many of the skills and experiences described above. However, there is no such thing as a “perfect” candidate. If you are on the fence about applying because you are unsure whether you are qualified, we would strongly encourage you to apply.
Experience in grantmaking is not required and many strong candidates will lack that experience. You do not need to know about grant structures or traditional philanthropic reporting requirements to excel in this position.
Across roles, we value staff who are able to communicate clearly and honestly about what they think, are comfortable giving and receiving feedback, and are comfortable making pragmatic choices, taking into account tradeoffs and evidence of impact. For more information about our hiring process and the qualities we look for in employees at Open Philanthropy, see here.
- This is a full-time position, which could be done fully remotely or from our San Francisco office. We would encourage you – but it is not required – to travel to San Francisco for quarterly “Togetherness Weeks” (when we try to bring remote staff to the office).
- The start date is flexible, though we’d prefer someone who could start relatively soon after receiving an offer.
- The baseline salary for this position is $181,409.33, which includes a base salary of $161,409.33 and an unconditional 401(k) contribution of $20,000, with additional consideration on compensation and title given for exceptional relevant experience.
- This compensation assumes a remote work location. There will be upwards adjustments for candidates based in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
- We aim to pay competitively enough to make salary unlikely to be a major consideration for candidates who would otherwise be interested in taking this role. If concern about compensation is keeping you from applying, we encourage you to reach out to [email protected].
- We offer a comprehensive benefits package including full health, dental, vision and life insurance, flexible work hours and location, and a stipend for ergonomic equipment.
- We are happy to consider candidates who lack U.S. work authorization, and to sponsor eligible candidates, but we don’t control who is and isn’t eligible for a visa and can’t guarantee visa approval. We are also open to hiring a successful applicant who lacks U.S. work-authorization to work remotely abroad.
We are committed to fostering a culture of inclusion and encourage individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences to apply. We especially encourage applications from self-identified women and people of color who are excited about contributing to our mission. Open Philanthropy is an equal opportunity employer. If you need assistance or an accommodation due to a disability, or have any other questions about applying, please contact [email protected].
Please apply by 11:59 PM PST on Saturday, September 10th, 2022 to be considered. We will evaluate all applicants as a cohort after that date.