Sue Desmond-Hellmann to Step Down as Gates Foundation CEO

Sue Desmond-Hellmann to Step Down as Gates Foundation CEO

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced that CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann is stepping down after five and a half years in the role.

Mark Suzman, the foundation's president of global policy and advocacy and chief strategy officer, will succeed Desmond-Hellmann. Suzman, who joined the foundation in 2007 as director of global policy and advocacy, will assume his new role on February 1, 2020.

According to the foundation, Desmond-Hellmann decided to step away from full-time work after concluding that she could not adequately meet the demands of the position while caring for her own health and the needs of her family. "This was without doubt the toughest decision of my career," she said. "But I felt I could no longer be the CEO the foundation needs and deserves at this vital time."

Desmond-Hellmann joined the foundation in 2014 as its third CEO — succeeding Jeff Raikes and Patty Stonesifer — after serving as chancellor at the University of California, San Francisco. An oncologist, she treated and researched AIDS-related cancer in San Francisco and Uganda in the 1980s and early 1990s and, as president of Genentech, led the development of the first gene-targeted breast cancer drug. During her tenure at the foundation, Desmond-Hellmann oversaw the creation of the Gates Medical Research Institute — the world's first nonprofit biotech organization — as well as the launch of the Economic Mobility and Opportunity investment strategy in the United States. She was included in the NonProfit Times' "Power and Influence Top 50" list in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.

"Sue brought an incredible set of attributes to the foundation: scientific expertise, tested leadership skills, a passion for building a strong internal culture, and, above all, a dedication to the mission of making the world a healthier, more equal place," said Gates Foundation co-chair Melinda Gates. "Whether we were sitting in a conference room in Seattle or spending time with farmers in southern Africa, I was always grateful for her perspective and her partnership. Our foundation is better for the fact that Sue walked through its doors five years ago, and I wish Sue and her family all the best."