Kedest Tesfagiorgis

Kedest Tesfagiorgis

Deputy Director, Global Partnerships and Grand Challenges

Kedest Tesfagiorgis leads the Global Partnerships and Grand Challenges team within the foundation’s Discovery & Translational Sciences program.

Kedest has spent 20 years addressing the biggest challenges in global health and development. Her driving passion is building relationships and organizing the worldwide collaborations that are required to make sustainable change. Kedest has partnered with scientists and science enablers on six continents to foster innovation programs that improve the daily lives of people in low-income communities. Core to her work is the conviction that the people closest to the problems that need solving should be empowered to work on them. She joined the foundation in 2007.

Kedest currently leads Grand Challenges, the foundation’s flagship innovation program, which launched in 2003. Over 20 years, Grand Challenges has supported almost 4,000 science and technology projects in 119 countries. Kedest has overseen the transition of Grand Challenges from a single foundation-funded program into a global network of programs that share the belief that innovation is the key to unlocking progress. Grand Challenges programs are currently running in North and South America, South Asia, and Africa.

Kedest also manages the Grand Challenges Annual Meeting, the world’s preeminent gathering of innovators in global health and development.

Beyond Grand Challenges, Kedest is sought after as a strategic advisor for colleagues who want to meet new partners and build wider-ranging coalitions. She co-leads the diversity, equity, and inclusion working group within the foundation’s Global Health Division, with a focus on partner diversification. She also helped create the foundation’s first-ever scientific leadership fellowship for outstanding mid-career scientists in Africa and India.

Born to Eritrean parents and raised in Ethiopia in a large family, Kedest grew up in a time of civil war and famine that solidified her commitment to equity and opportunity. She launched her career in health and development as her country began making historic progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals—proof that success is possible with the right strategy, support, and people.

Kedest has made her home in Seattle since 2000. She works with a number of local organizations and the African diaspora community, most recently serving on the board of directors of the African Diaspora Network.

See articles by Kedest Tesfagiorgis

Kedest Tesfagiorgis Deputy Director, Global Partnerships & Grand Challenges, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation delivers opening remarks at Grand Challenges Annual Meeting 2019 at the United Nations Conference Centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on October 28, 2019.

How to solve tough global health problems? Build community.

The leader of Grand Challenges shares how the initiative funds 4,000 research teams to advance some of the coolest science happening today.
By Kedest Tesfagiorgis Deputy Director, Global Partnerships and Grand Challenges, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Female scientists using a machine to test samples in a laboratory.

Supporting locally led innovation in global health and development

During the pandemic, our foundation has intensified its commitment to investing in researchers and innovation ecosystems in low- and middle-income countries. This includes the next generation of Grand Challenges grants: The Global Call to Action.
By Kedest Tesfagiorgis Deputy Director, Global Partnerships and Grand Challenges, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

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