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.
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.