Dr. Gordon Perkin, a Canadian physician who was a global health visionary ahead of his time, passed away on 21 August 2020. In the early years of his professional career, Dr. Perkin was engaged in leadership roles in the pharmaceutical industry, at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and at the Ford Foundation. It was this last organization which seconded him to the World Health Organization in Geneva, to assist with the development of the newly founded Expanded Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction (now the UNDP/UNFPA/UNICEF/WHO/World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction — HRP). In the 1970s and 1980s there was a huge need to develop a range of contraceptive options and was one of the reasons for the establishment of HRP, which became the lead research entity in reproductive health within the United Nations umbrella.
During his time at HRP, Dr. Perkin recognized the need to build strong relationships with pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers to facilitate the development of solutions for global health priorities. Thus, following his return to the USA in the 1970s, he co-founded the Program for the Introduction and Adaptation of Contraceptive Technology (PIACT) and the Program for Appropriate Technologies in Health (PATH). He later also became the first health advisor to the Gates Foundation (the predecessor of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) playing an important role in structuring their initial grants.
Concept Foundation was founded in 1989 by PIACT and HRP to facilitate the introduction of a monthly injectable contraceptive. This product which became known as Cyclofem® (Cyclofemina® in Latin America and Lunelle® in the USA) is being manufactured and used as a popular contraceptive in parts of Asia and Latin America.
Dr. Perkin was instrumental in the creation of Concept Foundation and was a member of the Concept Foundation Board of Directors between 2008-2014. It is no coincidence that Concept Foundation today works to support generic manufacturers to develop quality-assured reproductive health medicines and facilitates access to them through registration and introduction in low- and middle-income countries, filling an important need towards universal health coverage in sexual and reproductive health.
The public-private partnership model Dr. Perkin initiated at the time is as needed and relevant today as it was in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Remembering visionaries like Dr. Perkin is important for Concept Foundation and for the broader global health community to acknowledge, understand and appreciate the role of individual innovators in moving our field forward.