Alex Kintu Brings First-Hand Experience Treating HIV to Pushing Innovation Forward
Director, Clinical Development
Location: Foster City, CA
Joined Gilead: June 15, 2020
Alex Kintu, Director, Virology Clinical Development, oversees a Gilead study assessing the safety and efficacy of a potential twice-yearly injectable for HIV prevention in adolescent girls and young women. Read about how his early experiences growing up in Uganda, and later as a doctor at HIV treatment clinics there, inspired him to follow a career path that ultimately led to Gilead.
Q: What drew you to your field and how did you come to work at Gilead?
I trained as a medical doctor in Uganda and began my clinical career at the time when antiretroviral treatment (ART) services were first being introduced in Africa. I helped establish two large HIV treatment centers that were the first to offer ART in rural Uganda. One of these clinics was chosen to participate in a Gilead clinical trial that played a pivotal role in the FDA’s approval of the first treatment for preventing HIV infection. This experience motivated me to pursue further training in public health and research. I went on to complete my graduate studies in the United States, attaining an MS in Epidemiology and a PhD in Global Health and Population.
I joined Gilead in 2020, primarily to oversee a study assessing the safety and efficacy of a potential twice-yearly injectable for HIV prevention in adolescent girls and young women.
Q: Why did you choose Gilead?
I wanted to work for a company that can make a difference in the lives of the patients I saw as a doctor in Africa. Gilead has an impressive track record in virology, and I’ve been fortunate to witness the impact of the company’s innovation firsthand, including when I switched my patients from an ART regimen with challenging dosing schedules to the first FDA-approved single-tablet regimen. I’ve also seen the renewed hope in people who volunteered for a PrEP trial when they first learned there is a daily pill that can help prevent HIV infection. This innovation continues – as we saw with Gilead’s role in responding to COVID-19 – and there is more to come in virology and our other therapeutic areas.
I’ve had the unique opportunity of working and learning from a great team of scientists. This has renewed my hope for an end to HIV and other epidemics.
Q: Can you tell us more about your experience working on one of the original Gilead trials for PrEP and what it’s like to now be working at Gilead years later?
As a young physician working as a clinical investigator on a Gilead trial at the site level, it was hard to envision the amount of work that goes into preclinical and early phase studies before the larger Phase 3 trials. Now as a study director at Gilead working on multiple cross-functional teams, I have profound respect and admiration for the many people who don’t directly interface with trial participants or sites but make this work a reality. People are playing so many important roles behind the scenes in drug discovery, clinical operations, biostatistics, participant safety and other areas.
Q: Tell us about your most memorable day at Gilead. What made it special?
The day that sticks out is when we held in-person meetings in South Africa with our HIV prevention study’s global advocacy group and all site investigators. This trip also included visiting several study sites around the country, which was a valuable experience to connect with people on the ground in regions most impacted by the HIV epidemic. It was also inspiring to meet many other people who have dedicated their careers to working on HIV-related issues.
Q: What do the company’s efforts to prioritize equity, inclusion and diversity mean to you?
We work on developing medicines for conditions that affect diverse populations, and we know these conditions continue to disproportionately impact people who are socially and economically disadvantaged, especially people of color, the LGBTQ+ community and other historically marginalized communities. Representation from these groups at all levels — including the people dedicated to the work at Gilead, the participants we enroll in our studies and the investigators we work with — is critical to a better understanding of how our work impacts different communities.
Q: Being from Uganda and now serving as the medical monitor for PrEP trials in Uganda as well as South Africa, what does it mean to work on something that could potentially benefit your communities and home?
I grew up at the peak of the HIV epidemic in Uganda and witnessed its negative impact on almost every family, including mine. The past two decades have seen great progress in both treatment and prevention. But much more needs to be done, especially in key populations such as adolescent girls and young women in low-income settings. A PrEP option administered every six months could be a game-changer because it has the potential to address many of the challenges described for daily oral PrEP.
There is so much at stake. I’ve witnessed from several angles how the work we do has the potential to impact many communities and help change the quality of people’s lives for the better. This motivates me to continue pushing to do even more for these communities and fulfill our goal of ending the epidemic for everyone, everywhere.
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