Leadership and Structure
The MATRIX Collaborative is led by Sharon Hillier, who serves as its Executive Director. Dr. Hillier is professor and vice chair for faculty affairs, and director of reproductive infectious disease research in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and senior investigator at the University of Pittsburgh-affiliated Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI). Dr. Hillier is an internationally recognized microbiologist whose work has influenced a nascent field of research in which women’s health and HIV prevention concerns intersect. During her tenure as principal investigator of the National Institutes of Health-funded Microbicide Trials Network, she oversaw implementation of 43 clinical trials, from early-phase studies to large scale efficacy trials open-label extension studies.
Thesla Palanee-Phillips, an associate professor at the University of the Witwatersrand and director of Clinical Trials at Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (Wits RHI) in Johannesburg, South Africa, serves as Deputy Director for MATRIX. As a laboratory scientist and clinical trialist, her expertise includes designing, implementing, and leading clinical trials and investigator-driven research studies in Sub-Saharan Africa that are responsive to HIV/STI prevention and contraceptive needs of Adolescent Girls and Young Women, while integrating laboratory investigations, socio-behavioral research and implementation science-framed feasibility questions into this work.
MATRIX is at its core a partnership, with nearly 20 organizations from the U.S. and sub-Saharan Africa working together. As primary recipient of the USAID award, MWRI, serves as the base of operations (Prime) for the MATRIX Collaborative with responsibility for coordination of sub-awards to other Collaborative members, fiscal management, reporting and compliance, contractual communications with USAID, stakeholder engagement, and for overall synchronization of the MATRIX Collaborative’s efforts.
MATRIX’s structure consists of two major components: Product development teams focused on early- and/or late-stage research and development of promising HIV prevention products; and activity hubs that support the product development teams and research and development process.
There are five activity hubs whose primary focus include clinical trial design for research and development (the Clinical Trials Hub); participatory research for product R&D (Design to Delivery Hub, or D2D); local R&D capacity strengthening and mentorship (Capacity, Strengthening and Engagement Fellowship Program, or CaSE); business case for R&D (Business, Market Dynamics and Commercialization Hub, or BACH); and support for onboarding and offboarding of critical path products (the Technology Accelerator hub, or Tech).
A Steering Committee comprised of representatives from each partner organization as well as USAID, is the collaborative’s governing body and structured to foster coordination, collaboration, and synergy, while ensuring checks and balances are in place to support equitable and objective, yet agile decision-making.
In addition, an external, multi-disciplinary Scientific Advisory Group of international experts conducts unbiased data reviews to help inform prioritization of and decision-making concerning the Collaborative’s product portfolio.