Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator

Who we are

Driven by renowned global visionary leaders and an energetic executive team, GESDA is committed to diversity in backgrounds and cultures.

Introduction

GESDA is organized on:

  • A truly international Foundation Board of Directors, chaired by Peter Brabeck-Letmathe (Vice-President of the World Economic Forum (WEF); Chairman Emeritus of Nestlé SA) and vice-chaired by Patrick Aebischer (former President of EPFL), both appointed by the Swiss Federal Council
  • Specific Commissions chaired by a member of the Board and formed of experts coming from the entire world, including:
    > An Academic Forum chaired by Michael Hengartner (President of the ETH Domain Board of Directors);
    > A Diplomacy Forum chaired by Alexandre Fasel (Special Representative for Science Diplomacy of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs);
    > An Impact Forum chaired by Patrick Aebischer (former President of EPFL);
    > A Citizen Forum chaired by Mamokgethi Phakeng (Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town);
    > A Secretariat of the Board chaired by Stéphane Decoutère acting as Secretary General of the Board

  • An Executive Team, in charge of the operationalization of GESDA’s strategy, under the lead of Sandro Giuliani, CEO

Updating the constitution of the Board of Directors

The BoD is welcoming three New Members:

  • Michael Hengartner 
  • Michael Møller
  • Stéphane Decoutère

Matthias Egger is stepping down from his role. These changes bring the Board of Directors to 11 Members, for a total of 15 seats. Four seats are still to be filled.

Peter Brabeck-Letmathe

Peter Brabeck-Letmathe

Chairman of the Board of Directors

Biography

Born in Austria in 1944, Mr Brabeck-Letmathe graduated from the University of World Trade in Vienna with a degree in economics. After joining Nestlé Group in 1968, he spent a significant part of his career in Latin America before being transferred to Nestlé’s international headquarters in Vevey as Senior Vice President. Appointed Executive Vice President as of 1992 and Member of the Executive Board, he was in charge of strategic business units, sales & marketing and corporate communications. He led Nestlé Group from 1997 to 2008, first as CEO until 2005 and then as Chairman & CEO. In April 2008, he stepped down as CEO and remained Chairman of Nestlé S.A. On 6 April 2017, Mr Brabeck-Letmathe was appointed Chairman Emeritus of Nestlé S.A. Mr Brabeck-Letmathe also serves as Vice Chairman of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum and as Chairman of the Foundation Board of the Verbier Festival. He is Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Biologique Recherche and Chairman of the Advisory Board of SES-imagotag. He is the former Chairman and now an independent board member of Formula One Group and serves as a member of the Board of Directors of Salt Mobile SA. He is also Chairman of the Business Policy International Advisory Board of San Telmo Business School. Before that, he served on the boards of Roche, Credit Suisse, L’Oréal and Exxon Mobil Corporation. In addition, he was Chairman of the 2030 Water Resources Group, a public-private partnership that operates within the World Bank.

Patrick Aebischer

Patrick Aebischer

Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors

Biography

Professor Aebischer is President Emeritus of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). During his 16-year term as EPFL President, from 2000 to 2016, he transformed the school and established it as a world-calibre university of science and technology. He is also a member of the Brain Mind Institute at EPFL’s School of Life Sciences. Prof Aebischer obtained degrees in medicine (1980) and neuroscience (1983) from the Universities of Geneva and Fribourg. From 1984 to 1992, he was a professor at Brown University’s Department of Neuroscience and Department of Biomaterials, Artificial Organs and Cellular Technology in the US. He returned to Switzerland in autumn 1992 as a full professor at the University of Lausanne and Director of the Division of Surgical Research and the Gene Therapy Centre at the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV). Prof Aebischer is a member of the Singapore Health and Biomedical Sciences International Advisory Council (HBMS IAC), of the Scientific Committee of the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) and of the International Advisory Board of Sabanci University in Istanbul. He also chairs the Advisory Committee of École Polytechnique in Paris. He serves on the boards of several not-for-profit organizations including the Swiss Polar Foundation, the Montreux Jazz Festival and the Verbier Festival. Prof Aebischer is a member of the Boards of Directors of Nestlé and Logitech. He is a former Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of Lonza. He is Chairman of the Novartis Venture Fund (NVF) and a Senior Partner at +ND Capital, a venture capital firm that invests in disruptive technology in the life, physical and data sciences. Prof Aebischer is a founder of three biotech start-ups.

Samantha Besson

Samantha Besson

Professor at Collège de France in Paris

Biography

Prof. Besson holds the Chair “Droit international des institutions” at the Collège de France in Paris and is Part-Time Professor of Public International Law and European Law at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland). Samantha Besson has been a Visiting Professor at the Universities of Zurich, Lausanne and Lisbon and at Duke, Harvard and Penn Law Schools and a Research Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. She is a member of the Scientific Committee of the Institut d’Études Avancées de Nantes and of the Board of the Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences and was the first Delegate for Human Rights of the Swiss Academies of Sciences. She has taught in various capacities at the Hague Academy of International Law and is the co-chair of the ILA Study Group on the International Law of Regional Organizations. Samantha Besson’s research interests lie at the intersection of general international law and legal philosophy, and in particular: international and European human rights law (including the human right to science); international and European sources and responsibility law; domestic, regional and EU external relations law; international and European citizenship law and democratic theory. Her latest monograph is La due diligence en droit international, Recueil des cours de l’Académie de droit international de La Haye, Vol. 409, The Hague: Brill 2020.

Micheline Calmy-Rey

Micheline Calmy-Rey

Former President of the Swiss Confederation, Visiting Professor at the University of Geneva (since May 2012)

Biography

Born in Switzerland, Ms Calmy-Rey obtained a Master’s degree in political science from the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva (1968). From 1981 to 2011, she held various political positions in Switzerland, including member of the PS-SP of the Canton of Geneva (1979); member of the Geneva Cantonal Parliament (PS-SP, 1981–97), Chair of the Finance Committee and Speaker of Parliament; President of PS-SP for the Canton of Geneva (1986–90, 1993–97); member of the Government Council of the Canton of Geneva, Head of the Department of Finance (1997–2002) and President of the Government Council (2001 & 2002); member of the Swiss Federal Council (2003–2011), Head of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) (2003–2011), Vice President of the Swiss Federal Council (2006 & 2010) and President of the Swiss Confederation (2007 & 2011); President of the Council of Europe (2010); Chairwoman of the Ministerial Conference of the Francophonie (2010–2011); member of the Board of Directors of Caisse d’Épargne de la République et Canton de Genève (1986–1993); member of the Board of Fonds d’Équipement Communal for the Canton of Geneva (1998–2002); Vice President and then President of the Canton of Geneva Employees’ Pension Fund (Caisse de Prévoyance du Personnel Enseignant de l’Instruction Publique et des Fonctionnaires de l’Administration du Canton de Genève, 1998–2002); and member of the Board of Directors of the Swiss National Bank (2002).

Stéphane Decoutère

Stéphane Decoutère

Secretary General of the Board

Biography

Born in Brussels in 1960, Mr Decoutère moved to his mother’s native Switzerland in 1970. A geographer and sociologist by training, he began his career in 1985 by working simultaneously in science and communications, notably through positions at the University of Fribourg and EPFL, the Swiss Institute of Technology in Lausanne and in the private sector; he also served as a scientific advisor on public management to the cantonal government in Valais (one of the 26 cantons comprising the Swiss federation) from 1996 to 2000. Mr Decoutère was then directly involved in developing Switzerland’s educational, research and innovation policy, both nationally and internationally. In December 2000, he joined the Swiss federal administration and became the personal advisor to Eric Fumeaux, the Director of the Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology and President of the Swiss Innovation Agency (CTI-Innosuisse). In June 2005, he was appointed personal advisor to Pascal Couchepin, Federal Councillor and the Swiss Minister of Education, Research, Culture, Health and Social Affairs, as well as President of the Swiss Confederation in 2003 and 2008. In May 2010, after having advised Mr Couchepin’s successor, Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter, during his first months in office, Mr Decoutère joined EPFL to work with its presidents – first Patrick Aebischer and then Martin Vetterli – as Head of External and Governmental Affairs to the EPFL President. He was appointed Secretary General of GESDA in June 2019, and Secretary General of the Board and Chief Strategy Officer in October 2022. 

Sir Jeremy Farrar

Sir Jeremy Farrar

Director of the Wellcome Trust

Biography

Sir Jeremy Farrar is a clinical scientist and Director of Wellcome – the world’s second-largest not-for-profit organization dedicated to science and public health. Before joining Wellcome in October 2013, Sir Jeremy Farrar spent 18 years as Director of the Clinical Research Unit in Ho Chi Minh City. His research interests relate mainly to infectious diseases and global health, with a focus on emerging infections. He has published some 600 articles, mentored dozens of students and fellows, and served as the chair of several advisory boards for governments and global organizations. He was ranked 12th in Fortune magazine’s list of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders in 2015 and was awarded the Memorial Medal and the Ho Chi Minh City Medal from the government of Viet Nam. In 2018 he was awarded the President Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Humanitarian of the Year Award. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in the UK, the National Academies in the US, the European Molecular Biology Organisation and the Royal Society. Sir Jeremy Farrar was knighted in the Queen’s 2019 New Year’s Honours for services to global health, and in 2020 was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon, by the government of Japan.

Fabiola Gianotti

Fabiola Gianotti

Director-General of CERN

Biography

Born in Italy, Dr Gianotti obtained a PhD in experimental particle physics from the University of Milan in 1989. In 1994 she joined CERN as a research physicist and in 2013 was named an honorary professor at the University of Edinburgh. She is an associate member of the Italian Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, the French Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society London, the Royal Irish Academy and the Russian Academy of Sciences. Dr Gianotti has worked on several CERN experiments on topics such as detector R&D and fabrication, software development and data analysis. From March 2009 to February 2013 she held the elected position of project leader and spokesperson of the ATLAS experiment. On 4 July 2012 she presented the ATLAS results on the search for the Higgs boson in a seminar at CERN, which marked the official announcement of this discovery by the ATLAS and CMS experiments. She has received twelve honorary doctoral degrees from universities across the world and has served on several international scientific committees. Dr Gianotti was awarded the Italian honour of “Cavaliere di Gran Croce dell’Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana”. She received the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, the Enrico Fermi Prize of the Italian Physical Society, the Medal of Honour of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, the Wilhelm Exner Medal in Vienna and the Tate Medal of the American Institute of Physics for International Leadership. She was included in the Guardian’s list of the Top 100 Most Inspirational Women in 2011, ranked 5th in Time magazine’s 2012 Personality of the Year, included in Forbes magazine’s list of the Top 100 Most Influential Women in 2013 and 2017, and considered among the Leading Global Thinkers of 2013 by Foreign Policy magazine. Dr Gianotti was appointed Director-General of CERN in November 2014 for the period from 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2020; in November 2019 she was appointed for a second term, from 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2025. That was the first time in CERN’s history that a Director-General was reappointed for a second full term. 

Michael Hengartner

Michael Hengartner

President of ETH Board

Biography

Michael O. Hengartner served as Rector of the University of Zurich (UZH) from February 2014 to January 2020. From 2016 until his resignation as Rector of the UZH, he also served as President of swissuniversities. Michael Hengartner has dual Swiss and Canadian citizenship. He grew up in Quebec City where he studied biochemistry at the Université Laval. In 1994 he was awarded his doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate H. Robert Horvitz. After that, he headed a research group at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in the USA until 2001. In 2001, he was appointed to the newly established Ernst Hadorn Endowed Professorship at the Institute of Molecular Biology at the UZH. From 2009 to 2014, he was Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences of the UZH.

Michael Hengartner completed an Executive MBA at IMD Lausanne and has been honoured with numerous awards for his ground-breaking research on the molecular basis of apoptosis, including the Swiss National Latsis Prize in 2006. In 2010, he received the Credit Suisse Award for Best Teaching from the University of Zurich. Michael Hengartner was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Sorbonne University in 2016. The UZH rector received the award in recognition of his research in molecular biology and his services to society. He was appointed Member of the GESDA Board in October 2022.

Michael Møller

Michael Møller

Former Director-General UN at Geneva

Biography

Mr Møller spent 40 years as an international civil servant in the United Nations. He began his career in 1979 with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and worked for the United Nations in different capacities in New York, Mexico, Iran, Haiti, Cyprus and Geneva. From 1995 to 1997, he served as Senior Political Advisor to the Director-General of UNOG. Between 1997 and 2001, he was Head of the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs at United Nations headquarters; between 2001 and 2006 he was Director for Political, Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Affairs in the Office of the Secretary-General, while serving concurrently as Deputy Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary-General for the last two years of that period. Mr Møller also served as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Cyprus from 2006 to 2008 and was the Executive Director of the Kofi Annan Foundation from 2008 to 2011. In recognition of his efforts to deepen public understanding of the vital role played by the United Nations and its partners in Geneva, Mr Møller received a series of awards from the City of Geneva, the Union Suisse des Attachés de Presse and, most recently, the Fondation pour Genève. He was also awarded the Bourgeoisie d’Honneur de Genève by the Republic and Canton of Geneva in 2020. Born in Copenhagen in 1952, Michael Møller earned a Master’s degree in international relations from Johns Hopkins University in the United States and a Bachelor’s degree in international relations from the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom.

Mamokgethi Phakeng

Mamokgethi Phakeng

Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town

Biography

Prior to being appointed Vice Chancellor, Ms Phakeng had been serving at the University of Cape Town as Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Internationalisation since January 2017. She was previously Vice Principal for Research and Innovation at the University of South Africa (Unisa) for five years, after spending three years as Executive Dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology at the same university. She holds a PhD in mathematics education from the University of the Witwatersrand and is a highly regarded B1 NRF-rated scientist, with over 80 research papers and five edited volumes published. She has been invited to deliver over 40 keynote and plenary talks at international conferences and to serve as a visiting professor in universities around the world (in Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, India, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Lebanon, Lesotho, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Senegal, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US). Ms Phakeng has won numerous awards for her research and community work, including the Order of the Baobab (Silver) conferred by the President of South Africa in April 2016. In August 2014, CEO Magazine named her the most influential woman academic in Africa, and in August 2016 she was awarded the prestigious Businesswoman of the Year Award in the education category. In July 2019, the University of Bristol granted her an honorary doctorate in science in recognition of her leadership role in mathematics education in South Africa.

Chorh Chuan Tan

Chorh Chuan Tan

Chief Health Scientist and Executive Director of the new Office for Healthcare Transformation in Singapore’s Ministry of Health

Biography

Professor Tan was appointed to these positions with effect from 1 January 2018. He was President of the National University of Singapore from 2008 to 2017. He has served in senior leadership positions in the healthcare and biomedical-science sectors, including as Chairman of the National University Health System from 2011 to 2018 and Deputy Chairman of ASTAR from 2004 to 2018. A renal physician-scientist, Prof Tan obtained his medical degree from the National University of Singapore and completed his research training at the Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford. He is the first Singaporean to be elected as an international member of the US National Academy of Medicine. 

Academic Forum

Michael Hengartner

Michael Hengartner

President of ETH Board

Biography

Michael O. Hengartner served as Rector of the University of Zurich (UZH) from February 2014 to January 2020. From 2016 until his resignation as Rector of the UZH, he also served as President of swissuniversities. Michael Hengartner has dual Swiss and Canadian citizenship. He grew up in Quebec City where he studied biochemistry at the Université Laval. In 1994 he was awarded his doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate H. Robert Horvitz. After that, he headed a research group at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in the USA until 2001. In 2001, he was appointed to the newly established Ernst Hadorn Endowed Professorship at the Institute of Molecular Biology at the UZH. From 2009 to 2014, he was Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences of the UZH.

Michael Hengartner completed an Executive MBA at IMD Lausanne and has been honoured with numerous awards for his ground-breaking research on the molecular basis of apoptosis, including the Swiss National Latsis Prize in 2006. In 2010, he received the Credit Suisse Award for Best Teaching from the University of Zurich. Michael Hengartner was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Sorbonne University in 2016. The UZH rector received the award in recognition of his research in molecular biology and his services to society. He was appointed Member of the GESDA Board in October 2022.

List of Academic Moderators and Experts

MAP GESDA

Platform 1 : Quantum Revolution & Advanced Artificial Intelligence

Moderators

Matthias Troyer, Technical Fellow and Corporate Vice President, Microsoft

Rüdiger Urbanke, Professor of Communication Theory, EPFL

Global Experts

Robert Thew, Senior Researcher Quantum Technologies, University of Geneva

Nicolas Gisin, Professor of Quantum Information and Communication, University of Geneva

Francesco Petruccione, Pro Vice-Chancellor Big Data and Informatics, University of Kwazulu-Natal

Jennifer Chayes, Associate Provost for Computing, Data Science, and Society, Berkeley

Emmanuel Abbé, Professor of Mathematical Data Sciences, EPFL

Yi Zeng, Professor, Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Platform 2 : Human Augmentation

Moderators

Olaf Blanke, Bertarelli Chair in Cognitive Neuroprosthetics, EPFL

Samira Kiani, Associate Professor, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Effy Vayena, Professor of Bioethics, ETHZ

Global Experts

George Church, Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School

David Liu, Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Vice-Chair of the Faculty, Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT

Baptiste Gauthier, Senior Researcher, EPFL

Andrew Hessel, Fellow, Institute for Science, Society, and Policy, University of Ottawa

Itzhak Fried, Professor, Brain Research Institute, University of California Los Angeles

Bryan Johnson, CEO, Kernel

Michael Kahana, Professor of Computational Memory, University of Pennsylvania

Platform 3 : Eco-regeneration & Geoengineering

Moderators

Gerald Haug, President of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and Professor of Climate Geochemistry, ETH Zurich

Berend Smit, Professor of Chemical Engineering, EPFL

Global Experts

Wendy Queen, Assistant Professor of Functional Inorganic Materials, EPFL

Ottmar Edenhofer, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

Neil Davies, Executive Director, Gump South Pacific Research Station, University of California, Berkeley, Moorea

Ioan Negrutiu, Director Michel Serres Institute for Resources and Public Goods and Professor, ENS Lyon

Peter Schlosser, Vice President and Vice Provost, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, Arizona State University

Platform 4 : Science & Diplomacy

Moderators

Dirk Helbing, Professor of Computational Social Science, ETH Zurich

Jean-Pierre Danthine, Professor, EPFL; Managing Director, E4S; President, PSE – Ecole d’économie de Paris

Global Experts

Marga Gual Soler, Visiting Professor of Science Diplomacy, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Nicolas Levrat, Director, Global Studies Institute, University of Geneva

Jérôme Lacour, Dean, Faculty of Sciences, University of Geneva

Bastien Chopard, Professor of Computer Sciences, University of Geneva

Philip Grech, Senior Researcher, Chair of Negotiation and Conflict Management, ETH Zurich

Johan Rochel, Co-Founder and Co-Director, ethix: Lab for Innovation Ethic, Zurich

Samantha Besson, Professor, Collège de France, Paris

Johannes Buggle, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Faculty of Economics, University of Lausanne

Jean-Daniel Strub, ethix: Lab for Innovation Ethic, Zurich

Diplomacy Forum

Alexandre Fasel

Alexandre Fasel

Chairman of the Diplomacy Forum

Biography

Ambassador Alexandre Fasel has been the Special Representative for Science Diplomacy of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs since June 2021. As Ambassador of Switzerland in the United Kingdom from autumn 2017, he contributed to the implementation of the Swiss Government’s ‘Mind the Gap’ strategy on Brexit. During the course of his career he has engaged with the topics of European integration, the interface between foreign and domestic policy, foreign policy analysis and policy formulation as well as multilateral diplomacy, the latter as Head of the UN Division at the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and as Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the Office of the United Nations and other International Organisations in Geneva.

MAP GESDA

Representatives of politics – diplomatic circles – geopolitics

Martin Chungong, Secretary General, Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) – Geneva/Cameroon

Seán Cleary, Executive Vice-Chair, FutureWorld Foundation – Cape Town/South Africa

Jürg Lauber, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations and other international organizations – Geneva/Switzerland

Enrico Letta, Dean, Paris School of International Affairs, Sciences Po; former Prime Minister of Italy; President, Jacques Delors Institute – Paris/Italy

Representatives of transversal international organizations

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); former President of Chile – Geneva/Chile

Peter Maurer, President, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) – Geneva/Switzerland

Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) –  Geneva/Japan

Sergio Mujica, Secretary General, International Organization for Standardization (ISO) – Geneva/Chile

Guy Ryder, Director General, International Labour Organization (ILO) – Geneva/UK

Daren Tang, Director General, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) – Geneva/Singapore


Representatives of the community of chief scientists

Lidia Brito, Director, UNESCO’s Regional Bureau for Sciences in Latin America and the Caribbean; former First Minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology of Mozambique – Montevideo/Mozambique

Peter Gluckman, President, International Science Council; former Chief Science Officer to the Prime Minister of New Zealand; and Former Chair, International Network for Government Science Advice – Auckland/New Zealand

Representatives of Impact and Citizens Communities

Anousheh Ansari, CEO, XPRIZE Foundation; Co-founder and former CEO, Prodea Systems; Astronaut (private) – Los Angeles/US & Iran

Jim Hagemann Snabe, Chairman, Siemens AG and A.P. Møller Mærsk; Vice-Chairman, Allianz SE  –  Copenhagen/Denmark

David Goodhart, Journalist, Author and Think Tanker – London/UK

Jayathma Wickramanayake, United Nations Secretary General’s Envoy for Youth (ad personam) – New York/Sri Lanka

Nanjira Sambuli, Policy Analyst, Advocacy Strategist – Nairobi/Kenya

Impact Forum

Patrick Aebischer

Patrick Aebischer

Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors

Biography

Professor Aebischer is President Emeritus of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). During his 16-year term as EPFL President, from 2000 to 2016, he transformed the school and established it as a world-calibre university of science and technology. He is also a member of the Brain Mind Institute at EPFL’s School of Life Sciences. Prof Aebischer obtained degrees in medicine (1980) and neuroscience (1983) from the Universities of Geneva and Fribourg. From 1984 to 1992, he was a professor at Brown University’s Department of Neuroscience and Department of Biomaterials, Artificial Organs and Cellular Technology in the US. He returned to Switzerland in autumn 1992 as a full professor at the University of Lausanne and Director of the Division of Surgical Research and the Gene Therapy Centre at the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV). Prof Aebischer is a member of the Singapore Health and Biomedical Sciences International Advisory Council (HBMS IAC), of the Scientific Committee of the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) and of the International Advisory Board of Sabanci University in Istanbul. He also chairs the Advisory Committee of École Polytechnique in Paris. He serves on the boards of several not-for-profit organizations including the Swiss Polar Foundation, the Montreux Jazz Festival and the Verbier Festival. Prof Aebischer is a member of the Boards of Directors of Nestlé and Logitech. He is a former Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of Lonza. He is Chairman of the Novartis Venture Fund (NVF) and a Senior Partner at +ND Capital, a venture capital firm that invests in disruptive technology in the life, physical and data sciences. Prof Aebischer is a founder of three biotech start-ups.

Citizen Forum

The Citizen Forum (in preparation) will become the fourth Forum, chaired by Mamokgethi Phakeng.

Mamokgethi Phakeng

Mamokgethi Phakeng

Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town

Biography

Prior to being appointed Vice Chancellor, Ms Phakeng had been serving at the University of Cape Town as Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Internationalisation since January 2017. She was previously Vice Principal for Research and Innovation at the University of South Africa (Unisa) for five years, after spending three years as Executive Dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology at the same university. She holds a PhD in mathematics education from the University of the Witwatersrand and is a highly regarded B1 NRF-rated scientist, with over 80 research papers and five edited volumes published. She has been invited to deliver over 40 keynote and plenary talks at international conferences and to serve as a visiting professor in universities around the world (in Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, India, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Lebanon, Lesotho, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Senegal, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US). Ms Phakeng has won numerous awards for her research and community work, including the Order of the Baobab (Silver) conferred by the President of South Africa in April 2016. In August 2014, CEO Magazine named her the most influential woman academic in Africa, and in August 2016 she was awarded the prestigious Businesswoman of the Year Award in the education category. In July 2019, the University of Bristol granted her an honorary doctorate in science in recognition of her leadership role in mathematics education in South Africa.

General Secretariat of the Board

Stéphane Decoutère

Stéphane Decoutère

Secretary General of the Board

Biography

Born in Brussels in 1960, Mr Decoutère moved to his mother’s native Switzerland in 1970. A geographer and sociologist by training, he began his career in 1985 by working simultaneously in science and communications, notably through positions at the University of Fribourg and EPFL, the Swiss Institute of Technology in Lausanne and in the private sector; he also served as a scientific advisor on public management to the cantonal government in Valais (one of the 26 cantons comprising the Swiss federation) from 1996 to 2000. Mr Decoutère was then directly involved in developing Switzerland’s educational, research and innovation policy, both nationally and internationally. In December 2000, he joined the Swiss federal administration and became the personal advisor to Eric Fumeaux, the Director of the Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology and President of the Swiss Innovation Agency (CTI-Innosuisse). In June 2005, he was appointed personal advisor to Pascal Couchepin, Federal Councillor and the Swiss Minister of Education, Research, Culture, Health and Social Affairs, as well as President of the Swiss Confederation in 2003 and 2008. In May 2010, after having advised Mr Couchepin’s successor, Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter, during his first months in office, Mr Decoutère joined EPFL to work with its presidents – first Patrick Aebischer and then Martin Vetterli – as Head of External and Governmental Affairs to the EPFL President. He was appointed Secretary General of GESDA in June 2019, and Secretary General of the Board and Chief Strategy Officer in October 2022. 

Jean-Marc Crevoisier

Jean-Marc Crevoisier

Communications and Marketing Director

Biography

Communication in all its forms is the common thread in the professional career of Jean-Marc Crevoisier, born in 1961. Between 1985 and 2001, he worked for several media, including the Journal de Genève, for which he was the parliamentary correspondent.  He participated in the creation of the newspaper Le Temps, responsible for the Swiss section. He then moved to Zurich, where he was deputy editor-in-chief of the Migros magazine “Construire”. The years of political communication came after that, with commitment to the Federal Offices of Economy, Interior and Foreign Affairs in succession. Jean-Marc Crevoisier was the Head of Communication for Federal Councillors Pascal Couchepin (2003-2009), Didier Burkhalter (2009-2017) and Ignazio Cassis (2017-2019). In 2019, he joined the Swiss Mission to the UN in New York. There, he was responsible for the communication of the last phase of Switzerland’s candidacy to the UN Security Council. Switzerland was elected on June 9, 2022. On August 2, 2022, Jean-Marc Crevoisier took up his position as GESDA’s Director of Communication and Marketing.

Florent Gaillard

Florent Gaillard

Board and Program Manager

Biography

Florent is a curious and enthusiastic research enabler, dedicated to supporting a constructive dialog between the stakeholders across the board, building bridges between scales and articulating the diverse pieces from a systemic perspective.

From science communication to ethics, responsible research and innovation to governance in several disciplines in both the public and private sectors Florent was previously working with the EU-funded Human Brain Project (HBP).

Value driven and passionate, Florent has been one of the key actors in setting-up the EBRAINS ESFRI Research Infrastructure. In the HBP, he has developed in particular, a framework for transparency and the management of interests, a new approach to research integrity and been an active member in different expert working groups ranging from data governance, ethics and research culture, governance of interdisciplinary and international research projects, seeing his work as an interface between science, society and the wide array of stakeholders.

Florent is joining GESDA’s Strategic Committee, supporting the Foundation Board of Directors and GESDA’s strategic development. 

Laurianne Trimoulla

Laurianne Trimoulla

Communications Manager

Biography

Ms Trimoulla holds a Master’s degree in communications. She began her career in the luxury goods industry in Geneva, and more specifically as a Trade Marketing & Public Relations Officer in Coty Prestige’s worldwide travel retail department. After working in that position for five years, and taking a six-month sabbatical in 2012 during which she travelled and used the opportunity to take a step back, Ms Trimoulla carried out corporate communications assignments for the International Electrotechnical Commission and the International Committee of the Red Cross. She joined CERN in 2014, in the Visitors and Local Engagement unit. There she put on numerous outreach activities and events for the general public, such as Researchers’ Nights, TEDxCERN and Les Automnales. Ms Trimoulla subsequently worked on assignments for the World Intellectual Property Organization, the World Conference of Science Journalists in Lausanne, Oceaneye (an organization that studies microplastic pollution) and EPFL. She is deeply committed to the issues of sustainability, the environment, and marine conservation. Ms Trimoulla joined GESDA in August 2020. 

Executive team

Sandro Giuliani

Sandro Giuliani

CEO

Biography

Mr Giuliani holds an MBA from the University of Zurich and a Master of Advanced Studies in development and cooperation from ETH Zurich. From 1999 to 2009, he worked for the Pestalozzi Children’s Foundation, a Swiss educational charity, most recently as head of its international programmes and member of its Board of Directors. He joined Jacobs Foundation, a leading global not-for-profit organization that funds projects in the field of early learning, as Programme Manager in 2009 and then served as Managing Director and Delegate of the Board from 2013 to 2019. He currently serves on the boards of the Jacobs Foundation, the Jacobs University Bremen and the Roger Federer Foundation. Until 2020, he served on the boards of Fondazione Compagnia di San Paolo in Italy as well as on Barry Callebaut’s Sustainability Council. Mr Giuliani joined GESDA in April 2020. 

Gérard Escher

Gérard Escher

Senior Advisor

Biography

Gérard Escher is currently senior advisor to the President of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Martin Vetterli. He has a diploma in Biology from the University of Geneva, and a PhD from the University of Lausanne. He joined the Department of Neurobiology at Stanford University as a postdoctoral fellow and research associate. After his return to Switzerland (University of Lausanne), he led a research group working on synapse formation. In 1999, he became scientific advisor to Secretary of State for Education and Research, Charles Kleiber. He became assistant director at the State Secretariat for Education and Research in January 2005, in charge of science policy and forecast. In 2008 he moved to EPFL, where he acted as senior advisor to President Patrick Aebischer. 

Olivier Dessibourg

Olivier Dessibourg

Head of Science Scouting and Transfer

Biography

A physicist, mathematician and high-school teacher by training, Mr Dessibourg became a science journalist in 2000, working for a range of newspapers and winning many scientific journalism awards. In 2004 he joined Geneva-based Le Temps, where he created the science section in 2009 with a team of four journalists and over ten freelancers. He worked as a freelancer for NewScientist in the UK and Le MondeLa Recherche and Science & Avenir in France. In 2019, he co-founded the Swiss pure-player news platform Heidi.news, which focuses on science, health and innovation, and served as its deputy editor-in-chief. As president of the Swiss Association of Science Journalism (2012–2019) and Swiss delegate to the World Federation of Science Journalists, he launched and chaired the organizing committee of around 40 people for the World Conference of Science Journalists in Lausanne in 2019. This conference attracted more than 1,300 people from 82 countries. Mr Dessibourg is the author of several books (including a recent series on personalized health), a lecturer in scientific journalism and communication, a media-training teacher, a scientific event moderator and a master of ceremony. In May 2020 he was appointed Executive Director of Science Communication and Outreach at GESDA, and then Head of Science Scouting and Transfer in August 2022. 

Marga Gual Soler

Marga Gual Soler

Head of Science Diplomacy Capacity Building

Biography

Dr. Marga Gual Soler has been one of the pioneers in building science diplomacy as a field of research, policy and education worldwide. Prior to joining GESDA she founded SciDipGLOBAL, a purpose-driven advisory, strategy, research and training firm helping governments, universities, international organizations and scientific institutions strengthen the role of science in global policy. She serves as a senior science diplomacy advisor to the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research and is a member of the Scientific and Diplomatic Taskforce of the Square Kilometre Array Organisation (SKAO).

 

She previously served as senior project director at the AAAS Center for Science Diplomacy, where she built a global education and training program in science diplomacy and promoted scientific exchanges between countries under political strain – notably helping rebuild scientific cooperation between the United States and Cuba following the diplomatic normalization of 2015. She also served as a high-level science diplomacy advisor to former EU commissioner for Research & Innovation Carlos Moedas, was a member of the S4D4C Horizon 2020 project and is a founding member of the EU Science Diplomacy Alliance.

 

Marga holds a bachelor and master’s degree in biology from the University of Barcelona (Spain), a PhD in Molecular Cell Biology from the University of Queensland (Australia) and executive education certificates in leadership and public policy from Georgetown University and Harvard Kennedy School. In 2019 she participated in the largest-ever women in STEM expedition to Antarctica to elevate women’s leadership in global sustainability and climate action, and in 2020 was recognized as a ‘Young Global Leader’ of the World Economic Forum.

Marieke Hood

Marieke Hood

Executive Director Impact Translator

Biography

Ms Hood holds a Master’s degree in management from emlyon business school and a Master’s degree in urban planning and development from University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. She began her career in strategy consulting, where she advised local, regional and national governments on economic and innovation policy. She has a specific interest in assessing the methods and mechanisms that policymakers use to accelerate economic development in their regions, such as innovation clusters, incubators, accelerators and technology transfer platforms. In 2012, Ms Hood joined the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs at the Embassy of Switzerland, first in Paris and until recently in London. In her latest capacity as the head of Swiss Business Hub UK+Ireland, she supported business and R&D ventures between Swiss and UK corporates and start-ups. She has led projects on artificial intelligence and data-driven technology with applications in healthcare, life science and performance engineering. In August 2020 she joined GESDA, where she heads operations, private-sector innovation and public affairs. 

Martin Müller

Martin Müller

Executive Director Science Anticipator

Biography

Mr Müller has a long experience working at the interface between science, science policy and diplomacy. After an initial stay in academia and completing a doctoral degree in biomedical engineering, Mr Müller joined SwissCore – the Swiss Contact Office for Education, Research and Innovation (ERI) – in Brussels and worked at the interface of science, science policy and diplomacy, first as a research advisor and then as co-director. In this role, he helped shape the involvement and safeguard the influence of Swiss ERI organizations with respect to the European Union, its institutional bodies and related organisations, at a critical time in Swiss-EU relations. In addition, Mr Müller held leadership roles in pan-European science organizations, such as chair of the Science Europe working group on Horizon Europe, the EU’s €80 billion research and innovation programme, and coordinator of a large pan-European initiative on strategic planning and funding for research facilities. He joined GESDA in September 2019 as Executive Director of the Academic Forum. 

Daria Robinson

Daria Robinson

Executive Director Solution Accelerator and Deputy of CEO

Biography

Ms Robinson studied astrophysics at the University of Geneva and began her career with the European Space Agency, where she set up the external relations department at the time of ESA’s first human spaceflights with Russia. Convinced that global science and technology initiatives can be deployed only through the active involvement of all segments of society, she ran consulting businesses in the US and Switzerland until 2015 to help achieve that goal, exploring new opportunities for governments, international organizations and businesses. With this experience in hand and with the Paris Climate Change Conference taking shape, she joined the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to focus on global challenges, working closely with businesses, NGOs and governments to build transformative solutions for the 2030 Agenda. In 2018, Ms Robinson managed the leadership transition of the Antenna Foundation, bringing safe, affordable technology to developing countries in the areas of health, agro-ecology, water, hygiene, energy and nutrition. Ms Robinson still serves on several boards where her broad experience brings a unique perspective. She is also a passionate space and science “interpreter”, building awareness of their importance to society by sharing her professional and personal experience through public speaking. She joined GESDA at the end of 2019. 

Agota Seguin

Agota Seguin

Head of Operations

Biography

Ms Seguin holds an MBA from the French business school E.S.S.E.C.  She began her career at the family owned commodities trading house Louis Dreyfus in Paris, where she supported the implementation of back-office functions’ centralization and navigated several teams towards the new organizational objectives. Ms Seguin moved to Geneva in 2009 where she held operational roles as corporate and regional finance manager for commodities trading houses. Her specialty has been to setup operations, processes and tools with best practices in mind and aligning interests of multiple internal stakeholders in multinational environments. In 2018, Ms Seguin moved to Budapest to join the Hungarian Pikler-Lóczy Association as Co-President of the non-profit organisation responsible for preserving, practicing and disseminating the early childhood pedagogical approach of Dr. Emmi Pikler– her grandmother. Steering the association towards sustainability remains her way to care for the legacy.  Ms Seguin joined GESDA as Head of Operations in September 2022.