Brod Melvin Jalando-on Sanicas, MD MΣφ 2006 (MEB 2005-2006) is a proud Negrosanon and internationally renowned vaccinologist well-known for his contributions in the field of vaccine development. He has helped synergize different research institutions, government agencies, hospitals, and non-profit organizations for Asia, Africa, and South America. His reputation as a public health servant even before the pandemic is widely renowned as he has shared his expertise in explaining health crises and diseases for international organizations like TED. At the height of vaccine hesitancy amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, he adamantly advocated for and educated the public of the safety and importance of vaccination, especially through social media and news outlets.
Brod Melvin finished his undergraduate degree in Biology at UP Manila in 2001 and like most of his peers, he then applied to the UP College of Medicine. After being admitted to the College, he then joined the Mu Sigma Phi Fraternity, where he eventually served as the Fraternity’s Most Exalted Brother from 2005 to 2006. Brod Melvin shared that his many experiences and involvement in several projects within the Fraternity helped him grow as a person. Early on in his med school journey, the Fraternity taught him valuable learnings including time management, prioritizing work, and performing medical procedures which were truly helpful in his time as a medical student. It was during his time as MEB that the Quisumbing-Escandor Film Festival for Health (QEFF) took off, a national film making competition revolving around the most pressing health issues in the country. In its first installment in 2008, QEFF took on an in- depth examination of the complex factors that affect attitude towards health among Filipinos. Today, QEFF celebrates its fourth run, now tackling COVID-19, also shadowing Brod Melvin’s work on COVID-19 and vaccinology.
Brod Melvin’s path to becoming a physician-scientist was fraught with setbacks. After graduating from the UP College of Medicine in 2006 (cum laude) and passing the licensure exam, he originally planned to serve his countrymen in far flung areas through the Doctor to the Barrios (DTTB) program but was unable to get in. He also applied for numerous job vacancies from local to regional offices and several local and international non-governmental organizations but was unfortunately rejected by all of them. Brod Melvin thus took this as a sign to look elsewhere.
Not long after, Brod Melvin luckily found an online ad looking for doctors to work for the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Singapore. Brod Melvin grabbed this opportunity and flew out to Singapore for the interview and successfully got his first job as a Medical Officer of the Singaporean government. This indeed was quite a diversion from his initial plans, yet as Brod Melvin said, “You have to be open to all the possibilities. It is okay to change your mind along the way.”
Brod Melvin’s first project was on evaluating clinical trials of a human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine. He did not know much about the field but he had brilliant physician-epidemiologists and pharmacists working with him that served as his mentors during his time with the Health Sciences Authority (the FDA equivalent in Singapore). Here, he worked as a physician-scientist geared more towards the developmental aspect of drugs and became the medical lead/ clinical reviewer for a drug for hemophilia. He eventually had the drug approved for use in Singapore; and through his leadership, his team was able to greatly impact the lives of patients with the condition. Brod Melvin’s hard work in the laboratory was humbly making a difference, and it was a proud moment for him. He received several tokens of gratitude but what he remembers the most were the “Thank You” cards handwritten by the patients from the Hemophilia Society of Singapore. This became a source of immense inspiration for Brod Melvin. “As doctors, you may feel jaded, that what you’re doing is meaningless. But you have to look back on the people whose lives you have impacted… It’s important to have something that inspires you.” Thus, he pursued vaccinology and pharmaceutics with a newfound passion that would fuel a career that would soon span the globe.
Determined to experience new frontiers and learn more, Brod entered Università degli Studi di Siena in Italy through a Novartis sponsorship and obtained a Master’s in Vaccinology and Pharmaceutical Clinical Development as cum laude in 2012. Yet his appetite for learning did not end there as he further honed himself in public health by obtaining a Master’s in Infectious Diseases in the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 2015.
Many of his works have been instrumental in advancing the importance of vaccines in preventing various diseases around the world. At the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where he was the first Global Health Fellow from Asia, he was challenged by the seemingly conflicting goals and competitions for funding by groups and research labs working on tuberculosis (TB) vaccines. He endeavored to establish lasting linkages, synergize efforts, and energize the laboratories working on TB. His personal visits to countries like Uganda, Brazil, China, and South Africa, among others, paved the way for a stronger Collaboration for TB Vaccine Discovery (CTVD). This collaboration now has 80 groups around the world, with expanding programs such as scientist exchanges.
Brod Melvin’s wide network was strongly highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The same scientists whom he worked with on TB are now working on effective vaccines against COVID-19 variants. His work is vital in translating scientific data in a form easily understandable by funding agencies, publishers, policymakers, and more so by the public. Brod Melvin is no stranger to guest interviews and journalists as he is active in sharing what he knows about our current health situation to the public through online news outlets, university papers, and even through social media.
When asked for his plans for the future, Brod Melvin sees himself staying in the field of biopharmaceutical industry. Brod Melvin, a Senior Medical Director (Clinical – Vaccines) at Clover Biopharmaceuticals, is focused on producing more affordable and effective vaccines for pathogens of global public health importance.
A renowned physician-scientist, digital health expert, and science education champion, Brod Melvin continues to bring honor and pride to Filipinos on the world stage. His journey to success was never easy, but his story of grit, hard work, and humility is truly an inspiration to us all. It is for his selfless dedication to his profession and significant contributions to the welfare of his countrymen that he was chosen to be one of the 2021 Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) Honorees, the first ever in the field of Science and Medicine, by the Junior Chamber International (JCI) Philippines. Yet as impressive as his awards and achievements may be, his burning passion and desire to serve the global community are equally, if not more, admirable and outstanding. He has harmonized his passion, profession, mission, and vocation, and surely shall continue to do so over the course of his life-long career. As he does, he will also continue to serve as an inspiration for many others to do the same.