Building the Gates MRI Culture to Achieve our Mission

As the CEO of a new medical research institute, I get asked a lot of questions. What types of diseases will the Gates MRI focus on? How is your approach unique, and how do you intend to accelerate progress in translational medicine? These are important questions, but there’s one question in particular that I’ve found myself thinking about since the conception of the Gates MRI: what kind of culture is necessary to achieve our mission and save lives?

As the first members of our leadership team settle into their new roles, answering this question continues to be a top priority for us. We don’t have all the answers yet, but what we do know is clear: our success depends on our ability to create a strong culture.

We know that the diseases we’re tasked with fighting are complex, and the solutions we seek are difficult. We also know that laying the groundwork for a resilient culture—one that enables us to try multiple approaches, learn fast, and iterate faster—is a critical first step in our mission to end preventable deaths caused by malaria, tuberculosis, and diarrheal diseases.

To anchor our commitment to each other, the people we serve, and the broader global health community, we’ve defined five mantras that will continue to guide us as we work to fight these diseases that threaten the world’s most vulnerable populations:

Urgency

We’re dedicated to tackling diseases that claim four lives every minute of every day—so we don’t have a minute to waste. We go to sleep thinking about how to solve big problems, we dream about global health equity unleashing unprecedented human potential, and we wake up ready to do the rigorous scientific work to bring those dreams to life. We’ll never stop asking how we can do things differently and, more importantly, how we can do them better.

Collaboration

We’re experts without egos, and we know these diseases can’t be cracked in silos. Our greatest inspiration is found in recognizing that we’re all students and teachers of the world. We don’t think in silos or inside disciplines. We aim to learn fast, to accelerate faster, and to push the envelope. We believe it is our responsibility to deliver on our bottom line: lives saved.

Innovation

We will not settle for the status quo. By bringing cross-discipline knowledge from one area into another, we have a greater chance at developing promising solutions. And by asking the right questions and holding each other to high standards, we know we can gain forward momentum toward that goal. We’ll embrace cutting-edge approaches, and work to redefine the paradigm for how translational medicine is applied in global health and beyond.

Rigor

Science is our north star. We use it as our guide to identify what groundbreaking discovery will come next. The answers are already out there, and we’ll use our collective expertise to unlock the puzzle and produce life-changing results. Making decisions with agility allows us to move swiftly, but we still hold ourselves to the highest standards of rigor to advance the best science.

Courage

We look to the left and right, inspired by the dedication of our colleagues and partners. We look back and forward, motivated by the human stories that will not be told if we don’t stop these diseases from killing. We will not be afraid to ask questions, challenge assumptions, raise new ideas and be decisive—we will encourage it. The path will not be easy. We will walk it anyway.

Much like scientific progress, building a strong culture, I’ve learned, is a task that can never be marked as complete. As our organization continues on its culture journey grounded in our mantras, I’m excited to learn and grow—together—with this talented team, and work to turn our vision of culture into reality.

Two years before I was born, my father battled tuberculosis (TB). He caught the disease from a friend in his work carpool, who caught it from his g…

The Gates MRI is taking an exciting step in its journey to solve some of the world’s toughest and most persistent global health challenges. I’m ple…