Noubar Afeyan

Noubar Afeyan

American entrepreneur, venture capitalist, inventor, technologist, and CEO.

Noubar Afeyan (born July 25, 1962), is an American entrepreneur, venture capitalist, inventor, technologist, and CEO. In 2000, Afeyan founded Flagship Pioneering to create and fund early-stage start-ups addressing unmet needs in healthcare and sustainability. He is a Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He lectures in the United States and internationally on topics ranging from entrepreneurship, innovation, and venture capital to biological engineering, drug discovery, medical technologies, and renewable energy.

Early life and education

Afeyan is of Armenian heritage and was born in Beirut, Lebanon. His family moved to Montreal, Canada in 1976. Afeyan graduated from McGill University with a BS in Chemical Engineering in 1983. He earned his PhD in Biochemical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1987.

Career

In 1988, Afeyan founded PerSeptive Biosystems in Cambridge, MA. While CEO of PerSeptive, Afeyan co-founded and funded numerous other biotechnology companies, including ChemGenics Pharmaceuticals, acquired by Millennium Pharmaceuticals in 1997; Exact Sciences (NASDAQ:EXAS), Agenus (NASDAQ:AGEN); and Color Kinetics, acquired by Philips 2007. After PerSeptive's acquisition by Perkin Elmer/Applera Corporation in 1998, he became Senior Vice President and Chief Business Officer of Applera, where he initiated and oversaw the creation of Celera Genomics.

In 2000, Afeyan founded Flagship Ventures (renamed Flagship Pioneering in 2016), where he currently serves as Senior Managing Partner and CEO. Flagship Pioneering focuses on creating and investing in first-in-category, high-value life science companies in three principal business sectors: therapeutics, health technologies, and sustainability. The company creates companies through a systemic model of entrepreneurial science. Flagship's team of scientists poses scientific hypotheses, works to finesse them, and conducts proof-of-concept experiments that eventually led to new scientific IP and companies with disruptive potential. Since 2000 this process has led to the launch of around 40 companies. The firm also works with external academic innovations and, in some cases, with early-stage companies looking to partner.

Through his work as an entrepreneur both before and at Flagship Pioneering, Afeyan has founded or helped start numerous companies, including Affinnova, Adnexus (acquired by Bristol Myers Squibb), BG Medicine, BIND Therapeutics, Celexion, Eleven Biotherapeutics, Ensemble Therapeutics, Joule Unlimited, LS9, Midori, Moderna Therapeutics, Permeon Biologics, Pronutria Biosciences (later renamed Axcella Health) and Seres Therapeutics.

In 2007, Afeyan and David Berry (inventor) co-founded Joule Unlimited, which is developing Solar Fuels—drop-in fuels produced directly from the sun. In March 2010 and in March 2011, Joule was named by Technology Review as one of the 50 Most Innovative Companies. Joule was named as one of the 10 most important emerging technologies in 2010. Joule's unique and innovative approach to fuels led to its being named a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum in 2012 and to its receiving the Silver Medal in the 2011 Wall Street Journal Technology Innovation Awards. Joule's technology has been scaled to a demonstration facility, and the company has announced a commercial partnership with Audi. Afeyan cofounded Moderna Therapeutics with Kenneth Chien of Harvard University and the Karolinka Institutet, Robert Langer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Derrick Rossi of Boston Children’s Hospital. The company launched from Flagship Pioneering’s innovation foundry, VentureLabs, in 2010. Since launch, Moderna has raised venture funding in excess of $1B.

Affiliations

Since 2000, Afeyan has been teaching courses on entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. From 2007 to 2010, he also served on Boston University’s Board of Overseers. Afeyan has authored numerous scientific publications and patents.

Afeyan is Chairman of the Global Agenda Council on Emerging Technologies of the World Economic Forum. He is also co-founder and board member of the National Competitiveness Foundation of Armenia, a private-public partnership to promote economic development in the former Soviet Republic of Armenia. He serves on the board of Ameriabank, a leading bank in Armenia. Afeyan serves on multiple charitable and corporate boards, including those of Codiak Biosciences, Evelo Biosciences, Joule Unlimited, and Axcella. Since 2008, he has served on the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Board of Overseers. He is also on the board of the MIT Corporation.

Awards and honors

Afeyan’s awards include the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, an award granted to outstanding Americans who have distinguished themselves as U.S. citizens, and who exemplify outstanding qualities in both their personal and professional lives while continuing to preserve the richness of their particular heritage. Afeyan also received a Technology Pioneer 2012 award from the World Economic Forum in recognition of the breakthrough solar fuel technology being developed at Joule Unlimited.

Timeline

November 12, 2020
Moderna's Dr. Noubar Afeyan to Speak at IEEE InTech Forum on Tech Industry's Response to Covid-19.

Dr. Noubar Afeyan, Flagship Pioneering's founder and CEO and Moderna chairman, will be a keynote speaker at IEEE InTech Forum, taking place virtually on 2-3 December 2020. Dr. Afeyan will be speaking on the topic, "Moderna, Pandemic Vaccines, and the Path to Health Security."

July 25, 1962
Noubar Afeyan was born in Beirut.

People

Name
Role
LinkedIn

Further reading

Title
Author
Link
Type
Date

Armenian President phones Moderna's Noubar Afeyan over coronavirus vaccine

Web

March 21, 2020

How the biotech investor behind Moderna is using the 'immigrant mindset' to take on COVID-19

Erika Fry

Web

May 19, 2020

Immigrant-Founded Moderna Leading The Way In Covid-19 Response

Stuart Anderson

Web

August 11, 2020

In His Spare Time, Immigrant Noubar Afeyan Has Started 38 Companies In America

Stuart Anderson

Web

March 19, 2016

Noubar Afeyan - a life story worth reading

Web

What we know about Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine candidate -- and what we don't

Judy Woodruff

Web

November 16, 2020

Documentaries, videos and podcasts

Title
Date
Link

Dr Noubar Afeyan

October 21, 2019

Dr. Noubar Afeyan talks about Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine at webinar held by Armenian organizations

March 29, 2020

Moderna chairman: We don't need deep-freeze conditions for vaccine - CNN Video

November 16, 2020

Companies

Company
CEO
Location
Products/Services

News

Title
Author
Date
Publisher
Description
Walter Isaacson
January 11, 2021
Time
The molecule has been deployed to make a whole new type of vaccine that will, when it reaches enough people, change the course of the pandemic.
Joanna Glasner
December 24, 2020
Crunchbase News
An interview with Noubar Afeyan, co-founder and chairman of Moderna, about the timeline of the company's remarkable "from outrageous, to obvious, to lifesaving" accomplishment.
Juliana Kaplan
December 18, 2020
Business Insider
Noubar Afeyan, who is Armenian, told Insider about moving to Canada at 13, being a founder at 24, and Moderna's $1 million Dolly Parton vaccine boost.
Marguerite Ward
November 22, 2020
Business Insider
The cofounder of Moderna -- who came to the US on a visa -- says the "immigrant mindset" is a powerful force in the science and tech community.
Katie Thomas and Denise Grady
May 23, 2020
www.nytimes.com
The desperate hunt for treatments and vaccines has changed how researchers, regulators, drug companies like Moderna, investors and journalists do their jobs.
Jonathan Shieber
April 2, 2020
TechCrunch
Flagship Pioneering, the Boston-based biotech company incubator and holding company, said it has raised $1.1 billion for its Flagship Labs unit. Flagship, which raised $1 billion back in 2019 for growth stage investment vehicles, develops and operates startups that leverage biotechnology innovation to provide goods and services that improve human health and promote sustainable industries. [...]

References

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