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Wilmot G. James

Adjunct Professor and Senior Research Scholar, Bioethics; Interim Chair, Center for Pandemic Research

Wilmot James is a Senior Research Scholar at the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP), College of Arts and Sciences, Columbia University. An academic by background with a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, he was previously a Member of Parliament (South Africa) and opposition spokesperson on health.

Wilmot is the author and/or editor of 17 books that include the policy-oriented Vital Signs: Health Security in South Africa (2020), a set of essays on the public understanding of science titled Nature’s Gifts: Why we are the way we are (2010), a coedited book Biotechnology and Health: South Africa’s aspirations in health-related biotechnology (2007) and a co-edited collection of Nelson Mandela’s presidential speeches Nelson Mandela In His Own Words (2003), the latter having the distinction of containing forwards by Bill Clinton and Kofi Annan and given to the late Nelson Mandela on his 85th birthday.

Dr. James served on the Board of Trustees of the Ford Foundation between 1996-2008. He has teaching experience from the University of the Western Cape and University of Cape Town and post-doctoral and visiting professorial experience from Yale University, Indiana University, Edinburgh University and the California Institute of Technology.

At Columbia University, he teaches a (spring) course on Pandemics, Ethics and Governance at the School for Professional Studies, conducts research on children’s health security with Drs. Larry Stanberry and Philip LaRussa in the Department of Pediatrics, Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and convenes high-level meetings on planetary and catastrophic risks. Wilmot serves as a senior consultant in biosecurity to the Washington DC based Nuclear Threat Initiative.


Ongoing Research Projects

  1. Children’s Hospitals in Africa Mapping Project (CHAMP) surveys pediatric (including epidemic surge capacity) services at 24 collaborating hospitals across sub-Saharan Africa. With Drs. Lawrence Stanberry and Philip Larussa, Department of Pediatrics, Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.
  2. Building on CHAMP, the Pan-African Neonatal Care Assessment Survey (PANCAS) will gather information about neonatal mortality risk resulting from nosocomial infections in African hospitals. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. With Drs. Lawrence Stanberry and Philip Larussa.
  3. The Program in Vaccine Education at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons will among other activities conduct research on the cutting-edge advances and challenges in modern vaccine development. Supported by an unrestricted educational gift from Pfizer, Inc. With Drs. Lawrence Stanberry, Philip Larussa and Marc Grodman.
  4. Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Initiative to Strengthen Biosafety and Biosecurity is a collaborative gap research and technical training effort in all African countries undertaken with the Washington DC based Nuclear Threat Initiative. Funded by the Open Philanthropy Project.

New Research Projects:

  1. Politics and Governance of Pandemic Response in 4 African countries will conduct research on the influence of evidence-based science on COVID19 pandemic response decision-making in Egypt, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa.


  • Ph.D., University of Wisconsin at Madison