Kedest Tesfagiorgis leads the Global Partnerships & Grand Challenges team within the Discovery & Translational Sciences program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Kedest is deeply committed to building collaborative, inclusive, long-term partnerships that address the biggest challenges in health and development. Her career has been rooted in the conviction that, as a global community in pursuit of equity, we go faster and further by working together.
Born to Eritrean parents and raised in Ethiopia in a large family, she grew up in a time of civil war and famine—and launched her career in health and development as her country began making historic progress, achieving every single health-related Millennium Development Goal.
Kedest’s team is focused on ensuring that innovation champions closest to the problems that need solving are empowered to work on them. Over the past decade, her work has centered on facilitating partnerships with scientists and science funders, primarily through Grand Challenges, a program launched in 2003 to encourage innovators to take risks to solve the hardest health problems affecting those most in need. Kedest has helped grow Grand Challenges into a global network, supporting partners in India, across Africa, and elsewhere to create their own innovation programs. In addition to continuing to run the Grand Challenges platform together with a growing set of partners, she also convenes advocates, funders, policymakers, and thought leaders to create a global innovation ecosystem that consistently delivers impact.
Kedest is responsible for the Grand Challenges Annual Meeting, the foundation’s flagship platform for accelerating science for impact. She has attended all but one of the 16 annual meetings on five continents so far. Beyond her work within the foundation, she serves as an advisor to people seeking to build effective coalitions and networks, especially in low- and middle-income countries.