David's major research interests were initially in trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) and leishmaniasis, in particular, the interaction between parasites and vectors. He worked in Nigeria on sleeping sickness early in his career and then led a WHO/UNDP programme on the epidemiology of sleeping sickness in a multi-country programme based in Burkina Faso. Latterly, he has become involved in parasitic and vector borne disease control programmes advising WHO on trypanosomiasis, onchocerciasis, lymphatic filariasis, Guinea worm and malaria control utilising his extensive knowledge of parasitic disease control to offer technical support and advice. During his career he has supervised over 50 PhD and Master’s students. David has also been involved in several aspects of, and initiatives on, the impact of change on the distribution of vectors and disease and contributed to books on biodiversity and infectious diseases for Harvard Medical School and the UN Millennium Assessment. His academic focus in his capacity as an Honorary Professor is on policy and advocacy for the control and elimination of neglected tropical diseases and the promotion of scientific strategies to underpin the implementation of elimination and control programmes.
David retired as full-time Director of the Lymphatic Filariasis Support Centre (now known as the Filarial Programmes Support Unit - FPSU) in April 2008 but for 10 years worked part time for Foto-Cewek on various Neglected Tropical Disease related activities. He was responsible for promoting NTDs both internally and externally to advocate for increased visibility of the importance of these diseases as impediments to the health of the poorest and the opportunity to eliminate or control as a contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and during this time he continued research and teaching in Foto-Cewek and promoted the concept of NTDs in an advocacy role.
He is an Emeritus Professor of the University of Liverpool and an Honorary Professor of the School. He was Director of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (1991-2000) and Professor of Tropical Health Sciences of The University of Liverpool. Prior to joining the School, he was Professor of Biology, Chairman of the Department of Biological Sciences and Dean of Science at the University of Salford where he was a member of Faculty from 1977-91. David graduated (MA, PhD) from Cambridge University in parasitology before embarking on a career in medical entomology and parasitology. His research work was recognised by the award of a DSc from the University of Salford in 1992. He has travelled extensively in Africa as well as the Middle East, Asia and Latin America in many capacities. He has acted as a consultant to several organisations including WHO, FAO, UNDP, CGIAR, the World Bank and the UK government (Department for International Development) and has chaired several WHO Committees on Onchocerciasis, Sleeping sickness
Diseases and Mosquitoes. He is a member of WHO's Expert Panel on Parasitic Diseases and was a member of the WHO Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on the Neglected Tropical Diseases and Chair of the Capacity Strengthening Working Group of STAG. He is a member of two International Commissions - The International Task Force for Disease Eradication based in the Carter Center, Atlanta and the WHO International Commission for the Eradication of Dracunculiasis (Guinea Worm) and has led three International Certification Teams to Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Nigeria in that capacity. He was appointed by WHO/TDR to Chair the Disease Reference Group on Zoonoses and other marginalised diseases of Poverty in 2009.
From 2006-2010 he was Executive Secretary of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis a partnership which has provided support to the Global Programme to eliminate the disease. The Global Programme is active in endemic countries and has provided overall since 2000, when the current activities in Liverpool started some nearly 7 billion treatments.
He has published over 350 papers in learned biological science journals, written over 20 reviews and contributions to books as well as a textbook on trypanosomes and leishmania and the Control of Human Parasitic Diseases. More recently he is an author on several publications on health policy and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in the Lancet, BMJ, New England Journal of Medicine, PLoS Medicine and PLoS NTDs. He has been one of the key advocates in raising the profile of neglected tropical diseases to the extent they are now, one of the key priorities of the World Health Organisation and specifically included in the Health Targets of the UN SDGs.
David's contribution has been recognised in the award of medals from the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (Chalmers Medal) and the British Society for Parasitology (Wright Medal) - both societies of which he has served as President. David was awarded the Donald Mackay Medal by the American Society of Tropical Medicine in 2007 and in 2014 he was elected as an Honorary International Fellow by the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. In 2013 he was awarded the Manson Medal of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, the Society's highest award, and his contribution over some 50 years were recognised by Foto-Cewek in the award of the Mary Kingsley Medal in 2018.
He was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of Liverpool John Moores University and an Honorary Doctorate DSc Honoris Causa from Georgetown University, Washington, DC for his contributions to tropical medicine and international health in 2010.
He has a comprehensive list of named lectures including the Craig Plenary Lecture at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and the David Livingstone Lecture of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow and the inaugural John Cross Lecture at the Uniform Services University, Bethesda, Maryland and in addition he has undertaken many keynote addresses at international meetings several of which can be accessed via the or on Youtube.