Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

c.2013 New York Times News Service

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has tapped Susan Desmond-Hellmann, chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco, as the next chief executive of the giant charitable organization.

Desmond-Hellmann — the foundation’s first chief executive from outside Microsoft, the technology company co-founded by Bill Gates — will succeed Jeff Raikes, who announced the end of his five-year stint in September. Desmond-Hellmann is scheduled to start in May.

“Sue’s background in public health policy, research and development and higher education make her an exceptional fit for this role,” Bill Gates, co-chairman of the foundation, said in a statement. “She impressed us as an innovator and an outstanding leader and manager.”

Desmond-Hellmann joins the foundation, one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the world, with a deep background in health care.

A physician by training, she studied the transmission of AIDS in Uganda and later opened a private oncology practice in Kentucky. In 1995, Genentech hired her to help develop cancer drugs, a fledgling area for the pharmaceutical company. Desmond-Hellmann was one of the few oncologists on the staff, and she was soon promoted and put in charge of all clinical trials.

During her 14 years at Genentech, the company became a leading maker of cancer treatments and produced the drugs Avastin and Herceptin, both of which represented new approaches to fighting the disease. She left Genentech in 2009 after Roche acquired the company.

“She understands both the developed and developing world,” said Dr. Robert M. Wachter, a professor and the chief of hospital medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, where Desmond-Hellmann was his chief resident more than 30 years ago.

“She has accumulated a set of experiences that make her ideal for this job,” he said. “She knows science. She knows business. She knows education.”

After leaving Genentech, she was named chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco, and became the first women to serve in that role. Desmond-Hellmann has been a member of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s Economic Advisory Council and sits on the boards of Procter & Gamble and Facebook.

At the Gates Foundation, Desmond-Hellmann will oversee a $40 billion endowment that tackles major global issues like public health, poverty and education. Last year, the organization gave out more than $3 billion in grants to hundreds of groups, including the GAVI Alliance, which looks to expand children’s access to immunization in poor countries. The foundation recently announced plans to contribute to a $17 million pool of grants for NPR to increase its coverage of education and global health and development.

“I am honored by the opportunity that Bill and Melinda have extended to me,” Desmond-Hellmann said in a statement. “I’m excited to join such a dynamic and ambitious organization, with such a clear and focused mission — improving the lives of the world’s most vulnerable.”