Els Torreele is the director of the Open Society Public Health Program’s Access to Essential Medicines Initiative. Torreele graduated as a bioengineer and obtained a PhD in applied biological sciences from the Free University Brussels. As a research and development coordinator at the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology, she worked on policy issues related to biomedical research agenda-setting, patenting of research findings, and the commercialization of biotechnology research.
Torreele joined the Médecins Sans Frontières Access to Essential Medicines Campaign in its pioneering years as chair of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Working Group, a think tank to come up with new ideas to foster needs-driven research and development of treatments for diseases that primarily affect developing countries. A key outcome of this group was the creation in 2003 of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), a nonprofit drug development organization which she joined as a founding team member. At DNDi, Torreele was responsible for several research and development projects from discovery through clinical trials, including capacity strengthening for research in endemic countries, and international advocacy for increased research and development for neglected diseases.