Gates Foundation Head of Global Health to Retire in June

Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of the global health program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the past five years, has announced that he will retire in June.

During his tenure, the foundation's global health grant portfolio tripled in size, and Yamada, 65, transformed the way the program tackles the diseases and public health conditions that afflict the poor. Among other things, he helped the foundation sharpen its focus on vaccine development as the most cost-effective way to combat disease in the developing world, the Seattle Times reports. "He came with a strong product-development background at [GlaxoSmithKline], which made him think about outcomes and products and a way that academics don't often think," Dr. Roger Glass, director of the Fogarty International Center, told the Times.

Yamada also worked to scale back the foundation's spending on speculative research in favor of projects with "real-world promise" and, according to the Times, pushed the foundation and its grantees to do a better job of measuring results.

Yamada has said his future plans may include doing something "substantial" in Japan, where he was born. The foundation plans to launch a global search for his successor.

"Tachi has done a great job of focusing our ability to create and deliver vaccines and other interventions to the people who need them the most," said Gates Foundation co-chair Bill Gates. "He has put our global health programs on a path to success, and we look forward to building on his work."

"Global Health President of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Leave in June." Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Press Release 02/14/2011. Sandi Doughton. "Gates Foundation's Director of Global Health is Retiring." Seattle Times 02/14/2011.