FutureCast: Noubar Afeyan in conversation with Alex Gorsky
About The Event
Join us for a special conversation on what's ahead for biotech innovation and the future of human health with Alex Gorsky, former Chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson and Noubar Afeyan, Founder & CEO of Flagship Pioneering. Their conversation will take place virtually at 9am PT, Tuesday, January 10th.
Founder & CEO, Flagship Pioneering
Noubar Afeyan is founder and CEO of Flagship Pioneering. He is also co-founder and Board Chairman of Moderna.
Founded in 2000, Flagship is an enterprise where entrepreneurially-minded scientists invent seemingly unreasonable solutions to challenges facing human health and sustainability. They begin by asking “What if?” and iterate toward the unexpected answers resulting in the creation of first-in-category bioplatform companies with significant impact. Flagship has developed more than 100 scientific ventures resulting in over $100 billion in aggregate value, thousands of patents and patent applications, and more than 50 drugs in clinical development.
During his career as inventor, entrepreneur, and CEO, Noubar has cofounded and helped build over 70 life science and technology startups. Prior to founding Flagship Pioneering, Noubar was the founder and CEO of PerSeptive Biosystems, a leader in bio-instrumentation that grew to $100 million in annual revenues. 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 addition to his role at Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA), the pioneering messenger RNA medicines company, he is also co-founder and Board Chairman of Omega Therapeutics (NASDAQ: OMGA), Generate Biomedicines, Tessera Therapeutics, Alltrna, Apriori Bio, and ProFound Therapeutics. Previously, he was a member of the founding team, director, and investor in highly successful ventures including Chemgenics Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Millenium Pharmaceuticals), Color Kinetics (acquired by Philips), Adnexus Therapeutics (acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb), and Affinnova (acquired by AC Nielsen).
Noubar entered biotechnology during its emergence as an academic field and industry, completing his doctoral work in biochemical engineering at MIT in 1987. He has written numerous scientific publications and is the inventor of over 100 patents. He was a senior lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management from 2000 to 2016, and a lecturer at Harvard Business School until 2020. He teaches and speaks around the world on topics ranging from entrepreneurship, innovation, and economic development to biological engineering, new medicines, and renewable energy.
Noubar’s commitment to improving the human condition through science and business goes hand in hand with social investments and a global humanitarian initiative. Together with his partners, he has launched philanthropic projects including the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, FAST Foundation, and the UWC Dilijan School. Noubar is a member of the Corporation of MIT (the Institute’s governing body) and a member of the board of trustees for the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Noubar was born in Beirut to Armenian parents in 1962, did his undergraduate work at McGill University in Montreal, and completed his Ph.D. in biochemical engineering at MIT in 1987. A passionate advocate of the contributions of immigrants to economic and scientific progress, Noubar received the Golden Door Award in 2017 from the International Institute of New England, in honor of his outstanding contributions to American society as a U.S citizen of foreign birth. He was also awarded a Great Immigrant honor from the Carnegie Corporation in 2016, received a Technology Pioneer award from the World Economic Forum in 2012, and was presented with the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2008. In 2022, Noubar was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.
former Chairman and CEO, Johnson & Johnson
Alex Gorsky is one of just seven leaders to have served in the dual role of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Johnson & Johnson since the company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1944.
Alex began his Johnson & Johnson career as a sales representative with Janssen Pharmaceutica in 1988. Over the next three decades, he advanced through positions of increasing responsibility in sales, marketing, and management, culminating in being named CEO and Chairman in 2012.
Under his leadership, Johnson & Johnson became an industry leader in areas including oncology, immunology, and digital surgery, and reimagined how one of the world’s most iconic companies could meet the healthcare needs of families around the globe. During Alex’s tenure, record levels of R&D investment, including $14.7 billion in 2021 alone, as well as hundreds of acquisitions and partnerships, contributed to significant growth across its Medical Devices, Pharmaceutical, and Consumer Health sectors. As part of Johnson & Johnson’s commitment to serving more than a billion people each day, Alex also oversaw significant breakthroughs in public health, including the successful deployment of an Ebola vaccine in Africa and the development of the Janssen single-shot COVID-19 vaccine in just 13 months.
During Alex’s time as CEO, Johnson & Johnson was consistently recognized as one of the most innovative and best-managed companies in the world—featured on the list of Fortune’s Most Admired Companies in each year of his tenure, recognized as a “Most Innovative Company” by Fast Company, repeatedly named to Fortune’s “Change the World” list, and ranked as the #1 best-run healthcare company in The Wall Street Journal Management Top 250 since its inception in 2017. Alex continually promoted a more diverse and inclusive culture at Johnson & Johnson, serving as the driving force behind many of the company’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives, including a $100 million pledge to fight health inequities faced by communities of color in the United States.
Outside Johnson & Johnson, Mr. Gorsky’s influence has shaped both the healthcare landscape and the greater business community through his work as a member of the Business Roundtable and the Business Council Executive Committees. Among other accolades, he has been honored with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award (2017), the Prix Galien Roy Vagelos Pro Bono Humanum Award (2021), the BENS Eisenhower Award for outstanding contributions to the United States (2021), the Franklin Institute Bower Award for Leadership (2022), and the Distinguished Graduate Award from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (2022). Alex currently sits on the Board of Directors of Apple, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, and the Travis Manion Foundation, and serves on the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania Board of Advisors.
After completing his undergraduate education at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Mr. Gorsky served six years in the Army, earning the rank of captain, the Ranger tab, and Airborne wings. He earned his MBA from Wharton in 1996. Alex has been married to his wife, Pat, for more than 30 years, and they are the parents to one son, Nick.