When Noubar Afeyan started the venture capital firm Flagship Pioneering in 2000, his goal was to help scientists transform their ideas into businesses capable of improving the world and succeeding commercially at scale. And then came Moderna, a company hatched by Bob Langer, a chemical engineer who had been inventing new ways to deliver medicine. The company’s successful use of mRNA to manufacture drugs was so unique, it became a breakaway investment for Flagship. Moderna’s valuation soared to $7.5 billion by the time it went public in 2018. By 2020, Moderna’s special place in history came from one key application: its development of a vaccine for COVID-19.
The Flagship portfolio reflects the passions of Afeyan, a biochemical engineer by training and the first person to receive a PhD from MIT’s Biotechnology Process Engineering Center. With more than $6 billion in funding to date, Flagship has backed more than 100 companies in biotech, health and sustainability, including the CRISPR-based gene therapy company Editas, agriculture analytics firm CiBO Technologies and Incredible Foods, which makes edible packaging.
But the purpose of the portfolio isn’t simply to generate returns. It’s to create an innovation platform that is ready for anything, even a pandemic. Flagship vets its scientists’ research and turns six to eight research projects a year into companies, which it then supplies with the tools to grow.
At Signal 2021, Afeyan will join John Battelle for a conversation about Moderna, the Flagship approach to scientific innovation, and more.
Learn more about Signal 2021 and reserve your spot for July 14-15 here!