In Memoriam: Michael Gottlieb, PhD

Posted 7 May 2021

In Memoriam: Michael Gottlieb, PhD  1944-2021
By Stephanie James, PhD, FASTMH, and Lee Hall, MD, PhD

The global health community lost a passionate advocate and dedicated colleague when Michael Gottlieb passed away in April  2021 after a lengthy battle with cancer. Michael was a long-time member of ASTMH and a Councilor from 1996 to 2000. Many ASTMH members will remember Michael from one or more of his many related professional roles, as researcher and teacher, study section member, or program leader at NIAID and later the Foundation for NIH. Those who do will also remember the wisdom, kindness, helpfulness and generosity of spirit he brought to every facet of his work.  

Michael received his PhD in Biology from the City University of New York and conducted post-doctoral research in the Bacterial Physiology Unit of the Harvard Medical School and in the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases at NIAID, NIH.  In 1978, he joined the faculty of the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health where his research efforts focused on the biochemistry and cell biology of pathogenic trypanosomatid protozoa. He was a member of the NIH Tropical Medicine and Parasitology Study Section from 1988 to 1991. Having risen from Assistant to Associate Professor at Hopkins, he returned to NIAID in 1991 as program officer in the Parasitology and International Programs Branch, DMID, and became Chief of the Branch in 2001. Within NIAID, he managed the grant portfolio on parasite biology. Ever mindful of the need for genuine dialog between laboratory-based and field research in global health, he also coordinated NIAID’s International Centers for Tropical Disease Research network and represented the Institute in its support of the Multilateral Initiative on Malaria. He was responsible for initiating and developing the Institute’s pathogen genomics research program for which he received the Department of Health and Human Service Secretary’s award. He also played a substantial role in creating an enabling environment and forward-looking translational research program to capitalize on findings in biochemistry, genetics and genomics to accelerate development of molecular diagnostics and novel therapeutic interventions for parasitic diseases. 

In 2004, Michael retired from government service to join the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH), where he served as Associate Director for Science. Michael was a founding member of the Grand Challenges in Global Health team at FNIH, which worked in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome and the Canadian Institutes of Health to support application of the latest scientific advances to address obstacles blocking progress against diseases of the developing world. In that role, he oversaw a diverse portfolio of projects dealing with drug discovery, genomics and discovery of new insecticides and repellents. He also served as principal investigator of the large multinational MAL-ED project on the etiology, risk factors and interactions of enteric infections and malnutrition and the consequences for child health and development. Michael retired from FNIH in 2018 and moved to Manhattan to focus his time on family and community activities.

Michael has been referred to as “the best program officer ever” by scientists with whom he worked while at NIAID and FNIH, who cited his ability to motivate, challenge and inspire them, and voiced their appreciation for his guidance and encouragement. Those who wish to leave a remembrance of Michael for his family can share their stories and pictures at: