The Innovation System Behind Moderna’s Covid-19 Vaccine

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September 23, 2021

Noubar Afeyan, cofounder and chair of Moderna Therapeutics and CEO of Flagship Pioneering, says that the breakthrough innovation behind the company’s Covid-19 vaccine came not as a stroke of luck, but from a repeatable process. He outlines a system called “emergent discovery” that involves working back from future ideals, pioneering in novel spaces, encouraging unreasonable ideas, and persistently questioning hypotheses. And he says this process applies to other industries besides life sciences. Afeyan is the coauthor, with HBS professor Gary Pisano, of the HBR article “What Evolution Can Teach Us About Innovation.”

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