Richard Klausner

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Gates Foundation again hires top drug company exec for global health mission | 

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has again hired a leading pharmaceutical executive to run its biggest philanthropic mission, global health.

I posted on the rumor yesterday, but today the Seattle philanthropy confirmed that it has hired Trevor Mundel, head of global development for Novartis based in Basel, Switzerland. Novartis is the third-largest drug maker in the world and does a lot of work on vaccines.

“We are very pleased that Dr. Mundel has agreed to lead our global health program,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the foundation. “He brings tremendous scientific and medical credentials, in the lab and in the clinic.  We look forward to working with him to help improve the health of people in the world’s poorest countries.”

“Dr. Mundel is an outstanding choice for our global health work,” said Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the foundation. “He has a passion for science, and has worked for many years with an array of partners to improve health outcomes for people around the world.”

Novartis

Trevor Mundel

Mundel succeeds Tachi Yamada, who came from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to run the Gates Foundation global health program. Continue reading

Gates’ former global health director becomes venture capitalist, again | 

Gates Foundation

Tachi Yamada

Tachi Yamada, who recently retired from his position as director of global health at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has taken a new job with a Seattle venture capital firm, Frazier Healthcare Ventures.

I’m not sure if this a trend, but that makes two out of three former Gates Foundation global health czars so far moving from philanthropy to venture capital. Yamada’s predecessor at the Gates Foundation, Richard Klausner, is a partner in a San Francisco-based venture capitalist focused on pharmaceuticals and biotech.

Here’s an article on Yamada’s move by Luke Timmerman at Xconomy and another from the Wall Street Journal.

As I wrote in mid-February, when Yamada announced he would be stepping down, the big question many have is if his replacement will signify some kind of mission shift for the Gates Foundation. I doubt it.

Klausner did represent a major shift in emphasis toward basic science and, some would say, against dealing with the immediate needs of the poor. Gordon Perkin, the first global health director for Gates and co-founder of PATH, helped launch the Seattle philanthropy as well as its primary (and continued) emphasis on promoting expansion of childhood vaccinations.

Yamada was brought in to the Gates Foundation primarily to mend fences and re-establish order. Klausner, who accomplished a lot to build up the philanthropy’s investment in and rapport with the scientific establishment, left his position under a bit of a cloud due to a combination of factors. Before Rick left, I’d long heard (off-record) complaints about his management and “mission drift” within the Gates Foundation global health program.

Yamada didn’t really launch any big initiative that you can point to as his legacy. But from all accounts, the Gates global health program is back on the rails. The philanthropy has yet to announce Yamada’s replacement.

Gates Fdn exec leaving: Global health mission shift? | 

Dr. Tachi Yamada is leaving his position in June as head of the Gates Foundation’s global health program.

That’s big news primarily because the Gates’ global health program is so big, the largest program at the world’s largest philanthropy, accounting for more than half of the $3 billion the Gates Foundation spends every year trying to make the world a better, healthier and more equitable place.

So what does it mean that Tachi is leaving an organization that rivals (some say exceeds) the influence of the World Health Organization when it comes to setting the global health agenda?

I think it probably means a lot less than when his two predecessors left. Perhaps because of the maturity of the Gates global health program today, Tachi’s imprint on the program seems pretty faint. (Note: I call him Tachi because he prefers it, perhaps for the same reason Bill Gates prefers to be called “Bill” and not Mr. Gates.) Continue reading