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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Chair, Prabhavathi Fernandes, Ph.D.

National Preparedness and Response Science Board

Dr. Prabhavathi Fernandes is experienced in drug discovery and development in large pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. She obtained her undergraduate training in India, worked at the University of Ghent, Belgium in Immunochemistry and then received her Ph.D. in Microbiology from Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia. After her Ph.D. After post-doctoral fellowships in bacterial cell membranes and in Clinical and Public Health Microbiology, she chose a career focused on pharmaceutical discovery and development. She has more than 35 years of pharmaceutical discovery, development and management experience.

Dr. Fernandes held executive leadership positions at pharmaceutical corporations including Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute where she was a vice-president in Drug Discovery, Abbott Laboratories, where she was the leader of Anti-infective Discovery and The Squibb Institute for Medical Research, where she 
Photograph of Dr. Prabhavathi Fernandes
conducted key research on the first monbactam antibiotic, aztreonam.  During these years she was directly involved in the development of antibiotics, six of which have been approved, with one, clarithromycin, achieving sales over a billion dollars for Abbott laboratories. After leaving Bristol-Myers Squibb in 1997, where she was Vice-President, she founded and led four biotechnology and CRO companies as President, Chief Executive Officer and Director of each of these companies. Prior to her retirement in December 2016, she led Cempra, Inc. for 12 years as its founder, CEO and scientist. In 2012, she led the initial public offering and listing on Nasdaq for Cempra, and has successfully raised over half a billion dollars for the company. She led the development of two antibiotics solithromycin and fusidic acid while at Cempra, Inc. and she licensed solithromycin in Japan to Toyama/Fujifilm. Prior to Cempra, she was President and CEO of DarPharma, Ricerca and Small Molecule Therapeutics. Dr. Fernandes has served on the U.S. Congressional Panel for Assessment of Impact of Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria and on the American Society for Microbiology Advisory Panel for Antibiotic Resistance. She has worked on policy matters to help in combating antibiotic resistance with IDSA and the Anti-infective Working Group.


She serves as the Section Editor for the Journal of Antibiotics, was a member of the Product Development working group for Biodefense for the NIAID, and was an Advisory Board Member of Optimer Pharmaceuticals, Inc. as well as the Supervisory Board of GPC Biotech. At Optimer, she was involved with the development of fidaxomicin. She is currently on the Supervisory Board of Curetis a European based, publicly traded, molecular diagnostic company. In 2018 she was appointed as a Scientific Advisor to GARDP (Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership, a DNDi/WHO initiative). She serves as a consultant and scientific advisor to a few other biotechnology companies. She has authored over 250 publications and several reviews, book chapters and served as an editor for books.

National Preparedness and Response Science Board

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  • This page last reviewed: June 27, 2019