The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has named Susan Desmond-Hellmann, chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco, as its new CEO.
An oncologist by training, Desmond-Hellmann is the foundation's second CEO, replacing Jeff Raikes who came from Microsoft.
The Gateses said her expansive experience in the health field made her an obvious choice for the foundation, which is the largest private philanthropy organization worldwide. Its $40 billion endowment helps develop health, poverty and education solutions.
"Sue’s background in public health policy, research and development, and higher education, make her an exceptional fit for this role. She impressed us as an innovator and an outstanding leader and manager," Bill Gates, co-chair of the foundation, said in a press release.
Desmond-Hellmann became the first female chancellor of UCSF in August 2009, where she oversaw all aspects of the university and medical center’s strategy, academic programs and operations, according to the foundation’s press release.
She also has experience in medical innovation, a cornerstone of the Gates Foundation’s mission. Prior to working at UCSF, Desmond-Hellmann was the president of product development at Genentech, where she led the development and introduction of Avastin and Herceptin, two of the first gene-targeted therapies for cancer, according to the foundation.
Desmond-Hellmann has no prior experience in the nonprofit world, but experts say they aren’t concerned.
“No one comes into these jobs with 100 percent of the skills they need,” Brad Smith, chief executive of the Foundation Center, told the Chronicle of Philanthropy. “The learning curve for her will be in the business of philanthropy...She’s clearly a good fit for the program agenda at the Gates Foundation."