Women Founders
09 April 2020

Alumna Works to Provide Medicine for Africa

Lenias Hwenda (MA, ’10) is the founder and CEO of Medicines for Africa, an organisation that provides improved access to quality medicines at prices affordable to African patients.

Lenias launched Medicines for Africa in 2015 in Geneva and it now operates from South Africa serving the needs of patients throughout the continent focusing on areas that have been neglected for decades, such as cancer treatments.

For her, providing healthcare and necessary treatments are questions of human rights. Her career has been driven by this idea and the desire to positively impact the lives of others.

She continues to use her international affairs skills and expertise to serve at a global level.

She recently co-chaired global negotiations on “Improving the transparency of markets for medicines, vaccines and other health products”, which was approved by the World Health Assembly in May 2019.

Her latest publication, upcoming in The Lancet, supports the proposal by Costa Rica’s President, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, for the World Health Organization (WHO) to “pool rights to technologies that are useful for the detection, prevention, control and treatment of the COVID-19 pandemic alongside efforts by the G20 and the EU to make sure that they will be available to all at a price that is not prohibitive.

While she was in Switzerland, Lenias worked as a health diplomat with the African Group of Countries, an external expert for WHO’s Medicines Prequalification Unit, a consultant for multinational companies such as Eli Lilly and an adviser for the Access to Medicine Foundation.

From 2006 to 2010, she was successively a post-doctoral immunologist at Rockefeller University in New York, a vaccine development scientist at the University of Oxford and an intern at the Trade, Foreign Policy and Diplomacy Unit of the World Health Organization in Geneva.

She holds a First Class Honours BSc in Immunology and a PhD in Medicine from the University of Aberdeen (1998-2006), in addition to a Master in International Negotiation and Policy-Making from the Graduate Institute.