Noubar Afeyan PhD ’87 chosen to give MIT’s 2024 Commencement speech

Noubar Afeyan, a Ph.D. graduate from MIT in 1987, will be the keynote speaker at the OneMIT Commencement Ceremony on May 30. Afeyan is an inventor and entrepreneur known for his bold ideas and is the founder and CEO of Flagship Pioneering, a venture creation company that builds biotechnology platforms to revolutionize human health and sustainability. Since its establishment in 2000, the company has created over 100 science-based companies, with more than 60 drugs in clinical development.

One of Afeyan’s notable achievements is the success of Moderna, a company he co-founded in 2010. Moderna developed an effective Covid-19 vaccine that has been approved and administered to billions of people in over 70 countries. As the chairman of Moderna, Afeyan worked with his team at Flagship and three academic co-founders to pioneer the use of messenger RNA in therapies. Afeyan has a reputation for asking unconventional “What if?” questions and building companies with visionary goals.

MIT President Sally Kornbluth praises Afeyan for his entrepreneurial spirit and his commitment to making a significant impact on humanity. Despite the success of Moderna, Afeyan continues to push boundaries and make long-term investments in innovative science. Afeyan’s dynamic outlook and bold approach will be shared with the Class of 2024 at the commencement ceremony.

Afeyan is eager to address the graduating class, recognizing MIT as a hub for audacious ideas and remarkable students. He emphasizes the importance of curiosity, imagination, inventiveness, courage, and determination in making a lasting impact on the world.

In addition to his role as a speaker, Afeyan is a member of the MIT Corporation and has a strong connection with the Institute. He obtained his Ph.D. in biochemical engineering from MIT in 1987 and served as a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management for 16 years. Afeyan is involved in various activities at MIT, including serving on the advisory board of the MIT Abdul Latif Jameel Clinic for Machine Learning and participating in Institute events such as MIT Solve.

James Poterba, the Mitsui Professor of Economics and the chair of the Commencement Committee, praises Afeyan’s scientific talent and his ability to achieve breakthroughs in seemingly impossible goals. He highlights Afeyan’s contributions to coaching, funding, and mentoring science-driven startup businesses as a means to promote the public good.

Afeyan, born to Armenian parents in Beirut, is a strong advocate for the valuable contributions of immigrants to economic and scientific progress. He has co-founded philanthropic projects, including the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity.

The announcement of Afeyan as the commencement speaker has been met with excitement from senior class president Penny Brant, undergraduate association president Andre Hamelberg, and graduate student council president Mikala Molina. They express admiration for Afeyan’s work in biotechnology and anticipate the insights and experiences he will share with the graduating class.

Afeyan joins a list of notable past MIT Commencement speakers, including Mark Rober, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Bryan Stevenson, William McRaven, Michael Bloomberg, and Sheryl Sandberg.

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