By Kate Kelland
(Reuters) – The multi-billion dollar philanthropic Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said on Thursday that its chief executive officer, Sue Desmond-Hellman, is to step down after more than five years, to be replaced by Mark Suzman.
Desmond-Hellman, who until October was also on the board of the social networking company Facebook Inc, said she was stepping down from the Gates Foundation as of February 2020 to be able to “care properly for myself and my family.”
Desmond-Hellman was previously Chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco, the first woman to hold that position, and had worked at the pharmaceutical firm Genentech – now owned by Roche – where she helped develop some of the first gene-targeted cancer drugs, Avastin and Herceptin.
“This was without a doubt the toughest decision of my career. But… one of my mantras is: take your own pulse first. Over the last few weeks and months, I have done just that and concluded that I need to slow down,” Hellman said in a letter to Foundation employees, a copy of which was shared with Reuters.
The Gates Foundation, led by the former Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, is one of the world’s largest funders of global health programmes to combat disease and poverty. It has around $50 billion in assets.
Desmond-Hellman’s successor, Mark Suzman, joined the Gates Foundation in 2007 and is currently its chief strategy officer.
(Reporting by Kate Kelland, editing by Christina Fincher)