Dr. Noubar AfeyanDr. Noubar Afeyan is founder and CEO of Flagship Pioneering, a company that conceives, creates, resources, and develops first-in-category life science platform companies to transform human health and sustainability. An entrepreneur and biochemical engineer, Dr. Afeyan holds more than 100 patents and has co-founded and helped build more than 60 life science and technology startups during his 33-year career. He is co-founder and chairman of the board of Moderna, the pioneering messenger RNA vaccine company addressing the global COVID-19 pandemic, and serves on the boards of several private and public companies.
A fervent believer that entrepreneurship involves skills and practices that can be professionalized and taught, Dr. Afeyan has been a Lecturer at Harvard Business School and Senior Lecturer at MIT where he taught technology-entrepreneurship and innovation for more than two decades. He received a Technology Pioneer 2012 award from the World Economic Forum (WEF), was awarded the National Order of Merit from his native Lebanon in 2021, a Great Immigrant honor from the Carnegie Corporation in 2016, and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2008.
Dr. Afeyan is a member of the Corporation of MIT (the Institute’s governing body) and a member of the board of trustees for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Together with his partners, Noubar has launched and supported philanthropic projects including the IDeA Foundation, UWC Dilijan School, FAST, and the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity to raise awareness of the world’s most pressing humanitarian problems. Previously, he was a co-founder and board member of the National Competitiveness Foundation of Armenia, a private-public partnership dedicated to promoting economic development in the former Soviet Republic of Armenia.
A passionate advocate of the contributions of immigrants to economic and scientific progress, Dr. Afeyan received the Appeal of Conscience Award in 2020 and the Golden Door Award in 2017 from the International Institute of New England, in honor of his outstanding contributions to American society as a U.S citizen of foreign birth.
Artur AlaverdyanArtur Alaverdyan is an engineer-physicist, manager, entrepreneur, philanthropist, high tech investor. Artur has a degree from National Research Nuclear University, an ExMBA in Strategic Management and degrees from École Polytechnique and Rotterdam Universities, Artur has been running successful businesses in Russia and Armenia for more than 2 decades. Artur founded SolarOn - the first solar panel production company in Armenia. He is the Co-Founder and Chair of the FAST Board of Trustees, also a member of the Advisory Board of the Repat Armenia Foundation and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Arar Foundation.
Artur Alaverdyan is also the owner and chairman of ProfHolod, the founder, ex-chairman and board member of the professional association NAPPAN, a member of the Managing Committee of PU Europe Association (Brussels).
Richard AzarniaRichard Azarnia is a principal in a family that believes in its responsibility to support a new model of development that creates wealth in conjunction with environmental, social and human development. Richard has created two organisations that support its quest for systemic change. Mlinda, established in 2005, has been striving to create a replicable model for supplying energy and nature-based economic development in areas with poor energy access. The Good Investors, launched in 2020, is a cooperative of families that aims to build a financial system where sustainability drives profits, through collective intelligence and joint investments.
Ruben VardanyanRuben Vardanyan is a Russian business leader, social entrepreneur and venture philanthropist of Armenian origin, Co-founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative. He and his wife Veronika invest in large-scale multifaceted projects in the sphere of global education, Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and solving humanitarian problems. Ruben and his family, together with partners from various countries, have invested about $1.5 bln in projects all over the world developing a commercial approach that relies on involving blended financing to find solutions to social problems. Among these projects are the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, the Foundation for Armenian Science and Technology, SKOLKOVO Business School in Russia and the United World College Dilijan in Armenia, programs for tourism and urban development, as well as the preservation of cultural and historical heritage in Armenia and abroad, commercial, research and educational projects connected with wealthcare and succession planning, socio-entrepreneurial projects aimed at professionalization of philanthropy, the ecological platform and many others.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Ruben was part of a group that initiated a public discussion of the future of Russia and Armenia. Together with other professional managers, in 1999 he founded the “Club 2015” in Moscow, and in 2002, together with the American inventor, entrepreneur and philanthropist of Armenian origin Noubar Afeyan and other partners, he launched the “Armenia-2020” project. Many of today’s development projects initiated by Ruben and his partners are a direct result of these two initiatives.
Ruben has received many awards, both in Russia and on the international stage, for his entrepreneurial and philanthropic activities. Among them are the AIB Presidential Award for contributions to education and the Common Ground Awards, which is awarded by the international nonprofit organization Search for Common Ground to honor outstanding accomplishments in conflict resolution, negotiation, community building, and peace building. In 2001, Fortune magazine included him in the list of “25 rising stars of the new generation,” and the World Economic Forum named him one of the “100 global leaders of tomorrow.” Ruben is a holder of the orders of St. Gregory the Illuminator (the highest award of the Armenian Apostolic Church) and St. Mesrop Mashtots, awarded to him in recognition of many contributions to defending Armenia’s national interests and extensive and productive work for the country’s benefit.
Members of the Initiative Group
Yelena AbovyanYelena Abovyan is a CEO of Tourism and Urbanism Foundation (TUF), and Member of the Board of Trustees in Foundation for Armenian Science and Technology (FAST).
She started her career in 2004 at Armenian retail start-up, which ultimately developed from a project of introducing modern retail practices into operations of a shop to the biggest retail and distribution chain in Armenia. In 2009 she left the company in the position of Development Director and joined the team of newly established mobile operator, subsidiary of “Orange / France Telecom”, a multinational telecommunications corporation. At Orange Yelena was responsible for frontline and back-office operations in sales and customer service, covering wide range of activities, from talent management to digitalization of operations and launching innovative services. In 2014 she headed the department of products and services, responsible for the Company’s product portfolio and marketing strategy.
In 2016 Yelena joined the IDeA Foundation in the position of Chief Operations Officer and from 2020 she heads its Tourism and Urbanism platform, the TUF Foundation. Yelena manages the sound portfolio of projects, including the regional development programs, overseeing their full lifecycle, from concept ideation to project execution and operational management.
Arman JilavianCEO and Board Member, Aurora Humanitarian Initiative
Executive Director of Armenia 2041 Charitable Foundation
Arman Jilavian is CEO of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative that transforms the Armenian experience into a global movement based on the philosophy of Gratitude in Action. He leads the Armenia 2041 Charitable Foundation as its director. Arman Jilavian has more than 20 years of experience in publishing, communications, and media management, in 2011, he received a Media Manager Award. Being Chair of the IDeA Charitable Foundation Board, Chairman of the Dilijan Development Foundation Board, and Member of the Board of Governors of UWC Dilijan, Arman Jilavian is actively engaged in different development and education projects in Armenia.
Talar KazanjianTalar Kazanjian has prior experience in Non-profits management as well as strategic management of public sector and government organizations in various countries. During her career, Talar has worked on developing vision and organization strategies, stakeholders engagement, and change management operations in the GCC/MENA, the Caucasus and Central Asia.
Armen MkrtchyanArmen Mkrtchyan is a Senior Principal at Flagship. He works on a wide range of projects, including health security, institutionalization of AI/ML across the Firm, and supports growth of various Flagship portfolio companies.
Armen joined Flagship from McKinsey & Company where he was a Junior Partner and Co-leader of the McKinsey Center for Future Mobility. He led large corporate transformations, client development efforts, and engagements on strategy and operations with a focus on the impact of artificial intelligence in the automotive, aerospace, and hi-tech/electronics sectors. Prior to this, he was an Assistant Professor at the American University of Armenia. While there, he taught graduate-level software engineering classes and established the Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC), an incubation center to further the knowledge and practice of entrepreneurship in Armenia. As EPIC’s Founding Director, he crafted its vision and goals and developed partnerships.
Armen was awarded a Ph.D. in Aeronautics & Astronautics from MIT and a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering (summa cum laude) from the University of North Dakota.
Armen OrujyanArmen Orujyan, PhD, is the Founding CEO of the Foundation for Armenian Science and Technology (FAST). FAST is a nonprofit organization that enhances Intellectual, Financial, and Network capacities of science and technology ecosystem in Armenia and beyond. Focused on assisting in creating an ecosystem that drives scientific advancement and technological innovation, under Armen’s leadership FAST has launched Startup Acceleration Programs inclusive of Startup incubators and accelerators focused on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Biotechnology, and Robotics, an Advanced Solutions Center on AI and Machine Learning, a Creative Campus, a Fellowship for the top 10% of all PhDs in Armenia in STEM, deployed numerous scientific grants, and established the first Science and Technology Angels Network in Armenia.
Armen is also the founder and former Chairman of Athgo Corporation, one of the world’s leading entrepreneurship platforms in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council, UN Department of Public Information, and the World Intellectual Property Organization. Athgo has advanced innovation ecosystems in Europe and Africa and established recurring Global Innovation Forums at the UN and the World Bank headquarters.
Armen’s pioneering initiatives have provided financial, intellectual, and network capacities to nearly 10,000 young innovators, entrepreneurs, and students from over 600 universities in 80 countries. Armen applies his 25-year experience in entrepreneurship and his proprietary quantitative Individual Capacity and Intent methodology when architecting ecosystems to accelerate cutting-edge innovation in Fortune 500 companies and transformative inventions in startup businesses. He further provides strategic guidance on smart economic transitions to governments and leading global institutions.
Earlier in his career, Armen entered the national political arena serving as an advisor for various US political campaigns, including the Presidential. In 2001, championing opportunities for youth and the disadvantaged, Armen initiated a human rights movement that brought over 40,000 young people and concerned citizens onto the streets of Los Angeles. Leveraging the power of social media and the convening power of youth, the movement has since turned into an annual observance, attracting over 150,000 galvanized people.
In 2006, Armen joined the UN’s Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID) as a Founding Member. Under the auspices of the Chief Information and Technology Officer of the UN, he was appointed by the Secretary General of the UN and served through 2013 as co-Chairman of GAID. He was also named a UN e-Leader for ICT and Youth and selected as one of top under-40 young leaders by Asia Society. Armen further served as a Commissioner on the UN’s venerated Broadband Commission for Digital Development through 2015.
In 2017, Armen joined Rice University’ Baker Institute for Public Policy as a Member of the Board of Advisors. He is also a member of Asia Society’s Global Council.
Armen earned his Bachelor of Arts degree with Honors in Political Science from UCLA and received his Master of Arts degree as well as PhD from School of Politics and Economics at Claremont Graduate University (CGU). He is a recipient of CGU’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
Artak ApitonianArtak Apitonian is the Executive Director of The FUTURE ARMENIAN Foundation. As the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia, he has coordinated Armenia's multilateral diplomacy from 2018 to 2021. He was the Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to Sweden and Finland from 2013 to 2018. During his nearly three decades of a diplomatic career, he has held other responsible positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia, the Office of the President of the Republic of Armenia, and the Diplomatic missions of Armenia in Geneva, Beirut, New York, and Cairo.