For breakthrough innovation you need to think ‘future backwards’ – Noubar Afeyan

Innovation is the underlying driver of progress, founder and CEO of Flagship Pioneering Noubar Afeyan said during a conversation with Armenian President Armen Sarkissian within the framework of the Armenian Summit of Minds.

“You can have innovative thoughts, innovative business models, innovative technologies, and I’d say that it is part of human condition that we innovate, we improve. But I think more and more innovation has become a commodity,” Afeyan said.

He added that innovation happens anywhere, and it’s less a source of advantage, it’s less something people are marveling about.

“What we really need are breakthrough innovations, things that truly change the arch of possibility in a particular area. If you really think about breakthrough innovations, you need to think future backwards, not present forward,” Noubar Afeyan stated.

Speaking about the Covid-19 pandemic, Afeyan said “it’s an accelerator in some ways but also a cause of slowing down in other ways.”

“Even within the pharmaceutical industry, of course in the development of vaccines, in diagnosing that disease, there has been a massive acceleration, because all of the regulatory and other conservative things that would keep things going very, very slowly have been replaced by equally effective regulatory approaches, where times is valued differently,” he said.

“In case of the pandemic, when thousands of people started dying a day, people said we need to stop this and do the experiments in parallel, we do not have to wait six months between each step. That’s good. The bad news in pharmaceuticals is that clinical trials of every other disease either slowed down or stopped. One of the big burdens the pandemic can create is that it’s going to slow down the drug development, the clinical processes, because there has been a 1-1.5 year of major disruption of what is prioritized, what is not,” Noubar Afeyan noted.

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