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Moderna and Flagship Pioneering: Noubar Afeyan

In the field of bio-tech, it can take 10 years and millions of dollars to see if an experimental idea might turn into a life-saving treatment—if it ever does. Noubar Afeyan fully understood those risks when he co-founded Moderna in 2010. He and his colleagues were looking for a way to deploy the messenger RNA molecule to tackle life-threatening diseases. 

In January of 2020, an urgent opportunity presented itself in the form of a deadly virus that was spreading across the globe. At a breathtaking pace, Moderna produced a prototype for a COVID-19 vaccine, partnered with the NIH to test it, and produced millions of doses, becoming part of the most rapid vaccine roll-out in human history. 

While Moderna is the best known of Noubar’s companies, he has launched many others in the bio-tech space as part of Flagship Pioneering, his multi-billion dollar venture studio.

This episode of How I Built This was produced by Casey Herman and edited by Neva Grant. Research help from Claire Murashima. Additional support from Jeff Rogers, Rachel Faulkner, James Delahoussaye, J.C. Howard, Julia Carney, Elaine Coates, Farrah Safari, Liz Metzger, Harrison Vijay Tsui and Katie Sypher. You can follow us on Twitter @HowIBuiltThis, on Instagram @HowIBuiltThisNPR and email us at hibt@npr.org.


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