Making a Global Impact

by | Jan 18, 2022 | Alumni Profiles, Fall/Winter 2021-22, Health

Health scientist David Boucher ’00, Ph.D. ’08, left his research job at UC Davis in 2015 to help address the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Boucher is now chief of antivirals and antitoxins for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, in the Department of Health and Human Services. His work in therapeutics along with teams involved in diagnostics and vaccine development led to major progress halting the spread of Ebola. “We are blunting transmission with vaccines and increasing the chance of survival with the therapeutics,” Boucher said. “It’s incredibly satisfying to see that.” That three-pronged approach was recognized when Boucher and the teams were named finalists for the 2021 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, honoring federal employees. Their success with Ebola also became the basis for work in COVID-19. BARDA has partnered with the Department of Defense on research and development of vaccines and therapeutics, as well as procurement. Before Washington, D.C., Boucher spent many years at UC Davis — getting his undergraduate degree in genetics, earning his Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology and then working in labs. A first-generation student, he quickly understood the importance of education. “I really wanted to be that first person in my immediate family to get a college degree,” he said, noting his brother and sister followed suit. The scientist in the family, he said the challenges of his work at BARDA keep him going on long days. “The diversity of things we can do and the impact we have — it’s hard not to get fired up for this type of work.”