Tachi Yamada


The Gates Foundation connection to the Glaxo drug fraud scandal | 

In a ‘landmark’ legal case, the pharmaceutical giant firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) pled guilty this week to engaging in fraudulent, criminal behavior which included covering up adverse drug side-effects, promoting ineffective therapies and hiding unfavorable data — and will pay a record $3 billion in fines.

Most news reports quoted GSK’s CEO Andrew Witty blaming the misconduct on others and “a different era for the company,” adding that such behavior will not be tolerated. “I want to express our regret and reiterate that we have learnt from the mistakes that were made.”

Gates Foundation

Tachi Yamada

One of the most high-profile GSK executives alleged to have engaged in misbehavior is Tachi Yamada, former head of global health for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation who was before that head of research and development for GSK.

Yamada, while he was head of global health for Gates Fdn, was accused in a U.S. Senate hearing of bullying a scientist to not publish negative findings about a GSK diabetes drug. This was fairly big news at the time and such behavior is part of the federal complaint against the drug firm.

As a journalist blogger, I don’t have as much time as the major news outlets to do a lot of original reporting so I count on the big guns to do the work which I can then plagiarize, uh, I mean ‘curate.’

But so far as I can tell, nobody has made any mention of Yamada’s role in this case. Yet he was pretty high profile — at the center of the controversy surrounding the drug company’s attempt to cover-up adverse side effects of its diabetes drug Avandia.

Here are some of the stories that came out years ago, while he was at the Gates Foundation:

CBS News Meet Glaxo’s Fixer

Guardian Glaxo’s handling of drug Avandia damned by US Senate

ABC News Charity chief accused of bullying critic

Wall Street Journal Glaxo’s criticized for response to critics

Yet none of the news stories about this record-setting case mentions Tachi Yamada. Continue reading

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.”


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 Foundation funds research into dirt-charged cell phones and other wacky ideas | 

Gates Foundation

Harvard's Erez Lieberman-Aiden and her dirt-powered battery

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Thursday announced the latest winners in one of its more interesting initiatives aimed at stimulating creative, novel solutions to problems in global health.

The project is known as Grand Challenges Explorations and today the philanthropy announced 88 winners of $100,000 grants aimed at supporting unorthodox approaches to health problems afflicting the poor.

“One bold idea is all it takes to catalyze new approaches to global health and development,” said Tachi Yamada, outgoing chief of the global health program at the Gates Foundation.

The Seattle philanthropy was this year especially interested in supporting new — Yamada likes to say “wacky” — ideas aimed at furthering the goal of polio eradication, exploiting the ubiquitous cell phones for use in low-resource communities and reducing the massive health problems caused by inadequate sanitation in poor countries. Continue reading

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

Gates global health chief to leave | 

This press release below just came out. I’ll be talking to Tachi about it and will post something later today.

Global Health President of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Leave in June
Dr. Tachi Yamada inspired innovation and strategic focus in five years of service

Seattle – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced today that Dr. Tachi Yamada intends to retire from his position at the foundation after serving for five years as president of the Global Health Program. Continue reading

Economic benefits of polio eradication | 

Flickr, ramesh_lalwani

Child receiving polio vaccine

Ridding the world of disease not only saves lives. It also makes money.

A new study published in the medical journal Vaccine estimates that eradicating polio within the next five years would create an estimated $40-50 billion in economic benefits — mostly in poor countries — by the year 2035.

The economic benefits come not just from reducing treatment costs and improved productivity, the authors say, and are not simply a matter of reducing the number of cases of polio. Eradication of polio, which the international community appears close to achieving despite recent outbreaks in sub-Saharan Africa and Tajikistan, would allow health care workers now devoted to polio to turn to other health needs.

“Polio eradication is a good deal, from both a humanitarian and an economic perspective,” said Dr. Radboud Duintjer Tebbens of Kid Risk, Inc., the lead author of the study. “The GPIE (global polio eradication initiative) prevents devastating paralysis and death in children and also allows developing countries and the world to realize meaningful financial benefits.”

Dr. Tachi Yamada, head of the Gates Foundation’s global health program, added:

“Investing now to eradicate polio is an economic imperative, as well as a moral one,” said Yamada. “This study presents a clear case for fully and immediately funding global polio eradication, and ensuring that children everywhere, rich and poor, are protected from this devastating disease.”