Drica Ollmann Saphire
Dr. Erica Ollmann Saphire. Photo by Jenny Siegwart

Dr. Erica Ollmann Saphire, a researcher known for her work on both COVID-19 and the Ebola virus, has been appointed president and CEO of the La Jolla Institute for Immunology.

Saphire will become the institute’s fifth president when she begins her new role on Sept 1. She will succeed Mitchell Kronenberg, who has led the organization for the past 18 years and who will continue his research efforts at the institute.

“I am deeply honored to be asked to carry La Jolla Institute forward and lead such an exceptional group of immunologists and staff,” said Saphire. “I am excited to build on the institute’s tremendous legacy of scientific excellence and tackle humanity’s most pressing health challenges.”

Saphire is currently a professor in the institute’s Center for Infectious Disease and Vaccine Research and director of the Coronavirus Immunotherapy Consortium, a global effort to identify the most effective antibody therapeutics to fight COVID-19. 

Before the pandemic, she was instrumental in organizing the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Immunotherapeutic Consortium, which focuses on emerging viral threats such as Ebola and Lassa fever.

Saphire will maintain her research laboratory during her presidency. 

“My fellow directors and I are thrilled that Dr. Saphire will be leading La Jolla Institute into what will undoubtedly be a very successful future that brings us closer to our ultimate goal of life without disease,” said Eric Zwisler, chairman of the institute’s board. “She is a remarkable scientist and visionary leader who brings a unique combination of skills to her new position.”

Kronenberg will retain his position as chief scientific officer and remain a member of the faculty at the institute as he continues to lead his own research lab. 

“It’s been tremendously rewarding and a great privilege to serve as the institute’s president and I am proud of the groundbreaking research advances made by the many dedicated and immensely dedicated individuals here at the institute during my time in office,” said Kronenberg.

The independent, nonprofit research organization was founded in 1988 to focus on disease prevention.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.