10 Things You Didn’t Know About Noubar Afeyan

Globally renowned for his contributions to science, technology, and groundbreaking biotech research, Noubar Afeyan is a figure whose name resonates with immense respect and accolade. Yet, there’s so much about him that isn’t widely known making him an interesting personality to explore. Let’s uncover ten of those lesser-known aspects of his life and career.

1. Noubar’s Immigrant Background

While he may be globally known for his numerous contributions to the scientific world, Noubar had humble beginnings. Born and raised in Lebanon, he is an Armenian immigrant. His parents were survivors of the Armenian genocide, and their narratives have significantly influenced Noubar’s life and career path.

Moving to Canada at the age of 13, he later pursued his education in the U.S., becoming a naturalized American citizen. This unique multi-cultural background has enriched his perspectives and continued to influence his views and ideas.

2. An MIT Graduate

Noubar has an impressive academic background with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from McGill University, Canada. However, interestingly, he moved in a distinctive direction for his graduate studies. He earned his Ph.D. in Biochemical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

At MIT, he was mentored by Dr. Daniel I.C. Wang, a pioneer in biochemical engineering. The association influenced him extensively and sparked his lifelong interest in entrepreneurial ventures in biotech.

3. A Serial Entrepreneur

Noubar is not just a scientist but also a successful entrepreneur. He has co-founded and helped build over 40 life science and technology startups. The most well-known among these is Moderna, which developed one of the vaccines for COVID-19.

His entrepreneurial journey began with PerSeptive Biosystems, a biotech company he founded immediately after completing his Ph.D. The success and sale of this company set the stage for his future ventures.

4. The Flagship Pioneering

Apart from his individual entrepreneurship, Noubar also established Flagship Pioneering, a venture capital and private equity company. Founded in 2000, the firm focuses on health care and sustainability and has aided numerous startups in these sectors.

The company doesn’t merely fund startups; it also implements ‘venturelabs,’ a process it has created for serial venture creation and company building. As CEO and senior managing partner, Noubar leads the firm’s strategic vision.

5. Not Just Biotech

Although he’s recognized mainly for his work in biotechnology, Noubar has expanded into other areas, such as energy and food. Some of his ventures include companies like LS9, a renewable petroleum company, and Pronutria, a protein-based nutrition company.

His venture creation company, Flagship Pioneering, has launched companies focussed on industry sectors as varied as renewable energy, nutrition, and water purification.

6. Philanthropic Efforts

Noubar also dedicates his time and resources to philanthropy. He, along with his wife, has contributed significantly to many educational and entrepreneurial initiatives. Their hope is to provide individuals with the tools and resources required to actualize their full potential.

They have also been generous donors to the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, which aims to help individuals facing adversity due to man-made disasters or violence.

7. Awards and Honors

His immense contributions to biotechnology and entrepreneurship have won him multiple awards and honors. He is a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, an honor reserved for American citizens who have distinguished themselves within their own ethnic groups while exemplifying the values of the American way of life.

He also received the Technology Pioneer award by the World Economic Forum, which recognizes leaders at the forefront of global technology.

8. A Strong Advocate of Innovation

Noubar is a firm believer in the power of innovative thinking. He has always stressed on the ethos that the answer to complex biological questions lies in the rigorous iteration of experimentation and learning from failures along the way.

At Flagship Pioneering, Noubar has implemented this philosophy, encouraging a culture of ’embracing and learning from failure’, which has been key to the success of many ventures under its umbrella.

9. Balancing Different Roles

Noubar is known for his ability to seamlessly switch roles between being a scientist, CEO, and student. A lifelong learner, he continuously seeks to update and broaden his knowledge. Besides, he comfortably transitions into leadership roles, always ready to guide and mentor new scientists and entrepreneurs.

Interestingly, despite his numerous responsibilities, he prioritizes family time and believes in maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

10. An Optimist at Heart

Facing the dire challenges of the global pandemic, Noubar has consistently remained an optimist. He continually speaks about the potential of humans to face adversity with ingenuity and resilience and believes in utilizing crises as opportunities to learn and evolve.

His optimistic approach, combined with his constant drive for innovation, has essentially shaped his storied career and his notable contributions to the scientific world.

In conclusion, while Noubar Afeyan’s contributions to biotech are widely recognized, these lesser-known facts shed light on the broad and diversified nature of his persona and his work.

For more information on Noubar Afeyan and his work, visit Flagship Pioneering and Moderna’s team.