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UNC professors Gail Henderson and Myron Cohen (front center) working in China in the early 1980s. Cohen was named director of the Institute for Global Health in 2007, when then-UNC Chancellor James Moser established it.

Breakthroughs and collaborations: A history of innovation

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“Health concerns do not respect borders, and the University can only reach its true potential and best serve the people of North Carolina through the globalization of our programs. We gain valuable knowledge through this work that we can put to use here at home for treatment and disease prevention,” says Dr. William L. Roper, then vice chancellor for medical affairs, dean of the School of Medicine, and chief executive officer of UNC Health Care (and current interim president of the UNC system), as the University announces the creation of the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases. 

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UNC Project-Malawi in Lilongwe and UNC Project-China in Guangzhou emerge as the Institute’s first two sites with a research focus on HIV prevention and treatment.  

UNC and the University of Nicaragua sign a memorandum of understanding to begin joint research on gastrointestinal diseases and preventable childhood illnesses. 


We begin participating in the Doris Duke International Clinical Research Fellowship to send medical students to developing countries for one year. This same year, the UNC Department of Surgery launches a surgical residency program at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, Malawi.  


The backbone of the Institute’s portfolio has always been in the area of HIV/AIDS. UNC is home to a top-10 ranked AIDS program. In May 2011, Institute researchers announced a major discovery in the fight against HIV/AIDS, proving that treating people for HIV makes them less infectious. The study, HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) 052, demonstrated that early treatment of HIV with antiretroviral therapy reduces sexual transmission by 96 percent. Institute Director Myron Cohen was the architect and principal investigator of this large, international study. In December 2011, the journal Science named HPTN 052 as the “Breakthrough of the Year,” inspiring the hope for an AIDS-free generation.

Grants from the NIH Fogarty AIDS International Training and Research Program as well as pharmaceutical company Gilead support Malawians interested in a clinical career. 


UNC becomes one of four U.S. universities to participate in the National Institutes of Health Fogarty Global Health Fellows program. The 12-month fellowship supports mentored research training opportunities for promising postdoctoral fellows and doctoral students. To date, 133 fellows have completed the program.

The Institute recruits an entire team of internationally recognized global health researchers working in Zambia. The majority of the faculty recruits are obstetrician-gynecologists and seven of the nine live in Zambia full time. The addition of this team, combined with two new full-time OB-GYNs in Malawi, gives UNC the largest global women’s health division.


UNC’s Center for Infectious Diseases and Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases merge, becoming the Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases. Today the combined organization generates approximately $75 million in research revenue with more than 75 affiliated faculty members working on four continents.

Dr. Satish Gopal becomes cancer director of UNC Project-Malawi and the country’s only medical oncologist. 

 UNC Project-China Director Dr. Joseph Tucker receives $3 million from the NIH to examine the use of crowdsourcing to promote HIV testing and linkage to care in South China. 


The Institute becomes the second largest research organization at UNC with more than $43 million in revenue. 

Institute researchers respond to the devastating Ebola outbreak in West Africa, leading to the establishment of our Liberia site and continuing research into Ebola, Lassa fever, and more.


In partnership with the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, UNC enrolls the first cohort of master’s in implementation science trainees. It is the only program of its kind in Africa. 

The Collaboratory of AIDS Researchers for Eradication or CARE, led by UNC’s Dr. David Margolis, receives $23 million from the NIH to identify a cure for HIV. 

Dr. Lisa Hightow-Weidman receives $18 million from the NIH to establish the iTech Center. The center focuses on developing mobile apps to reach youth at risk for or living with HIV. 


UNC Project-Malawi Scientific Director Dr. Mina Hosseinipour co-leads the HTPN 084 study, the first trial to test a long-acting injection to prevent HIV in women. 

UNC researchers discover Ebola can persist in the semen of survivors more than two years after infection. 


The outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19 begins in China and spreads globally. Our infectious diseases and public health experts respond, advising state and University policy and answering media requests. Read more

As our researchers work to better understand infectious diseases, the Institute is well-positioned to continue improving the health of people around the world.