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Gates Foundation hires California university head

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gatesSEATTLE — The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation named Tuesday the chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco, to be the third CEO of the world’s largest charitable foundation.

Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellman will take over from Jeff Raikes in May. Raikes announced his retirement in September after five years as foundation CEO.

Desmond-Hellman will be the first person without a Microsoft connection to run the foundation, which has more than 1,000 employees and an endowment totaling more than $40 billion.

The foundation makes grants equaling more than $3 billion a year, with a focus on global health, world agriculture and education.

Melinda Gates said Tuesday they chose Desmond-Hellman because of her scientific knowledge and technical expertise on the foundation’s issues.

Desmond-Hellman is an oncologist by training with expertise in public health, drug development, regulatory innovation and health policy. She became the first woman to work as the university’s chancellor in 2009. Before that, Desmond-Hellman was president of product development at Genentech, where she led development of two of the first gene-targeted therapies for cancer, Avastin and Herceptin.

“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,” foundation co-chair Bill Gates said in a statement.

Desmond-Hellman said she is inspired by the foundation’s mission to help people around the world live healthy, productive lives.

“I frankly felt I just couldn’t say no,” she told The Associated Press.

She describes herself as an avid cyclist — both road and mountain biking — and a voracious reader who follows Bill Gates’ annual list of books. She said her first job when she takes over running the foundation this spring will be to get to know its people and its culture.

University of California President Janet Napolitano said Desmond-Hellmann helped navigate the institution through difficult financial times and made it No. 1 in National Institutes of Health funding for public universities.

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Contact Donna Blankinship at https://twitter.com/dgblankinship

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