Cooney Lecture


Endowed by Dr. Noubar Afeyan, the Charles L. Cooney Lectureship was established in 2022 to recognize Professor Cooney's many contributions to the fields of biochemical engineering and pharmaceutical manufacturing, as well as his leadership in the translation of technical innovation into new company creation. The Lectureship showcases rising talent in the biotechnology arena, and brings emerging leaders in both the academy and industry to campus to discuss aspects of innovation in biotechnology.  This theme is a fitting tribute to Charlie, who has served as a trusted mentor to so many students and young alumni as they have made pivotal early decisions in their careers in the biotechnology field, and who has served in many capacities to help establish, support or guide biotechnology companies launched from MIT and beyond. The lectureship is intended to present and recognize engineers whose achievements reflect this innovative spirit.

The Cooney Legacy

Charles L. Cooney received his B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1966 where he was inspired to pursue biochemical engineering by Prof. Arthur Humphrey and the S.M. in 1967 and Ph.D. in in 1970 in biochemical engineering from MIT as Prof. Daniel Wang’s first PhD student. After a short post-doc at Squibb doing experiments in 40m3 fermentors, he joined the MIT faculty as an assistant professor in 1970, becoming full professor in 1982. He was Executive Officer of Chemical Engineering 1995-2001 and from 2002 to 2014 he was the founding Faculty Director of the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation. He is an advisor to SMART (Singapore MIT Alliance for Research and Technology) Innovation Center and previously, the faculty lead for innovation programs associated with the Skoltech (Russia) and the MIT Portugal Programs and the MIT-Masdar Institute (Abu Dhabi).

Cooney’s honors include the 1989 Gold Medal of the Institute of Biotechnological Studies (London); the Food, Pharmaceutical, and Bioengineering Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers; the James Van Lanen Distinguished Service Award from the American Chemical Society’s Division of Microbial and Biochemical Technology; and election to the American Institute of Medical and Biochemical Engineers and the Fellows of the American Chemical Society. In 2012 he was awarded Honoris Causa by Ramon Llull University in Barcelona.

Prof. Cooney's research and teaching interests span a range of topics in biochemical engineering, pharmaceutical manufacturing and technological innovation. He has published over 250 research papers, over 25 patents and co-authored or edited 6 books including Development of Sustainable Bioprocesses: Modeling and Assessment, 2006 and soon to be published, Adaptive Innovation 2022. His teaching has focused on bioprocess development and manufacturing, and translating technological innovation into new company creation. He has taught Fermentation Technology (52 years) and Downstream Processing (36 years) in the School of Engineering Short Programs and served as faculty director of multiple custom programs in Sloan Executive Education.

Cooney has been an advisor, board member or founder of over 40 companies and is currently a consultant to multiple biotech and pharma companies, and currently sits on the Board of Directors of: Codiak Bioscience, Innovent Biologics (Hong Kong), Iterative Scopes, LayerBio, Boyd Technology, Elektrofi, Hovione (Portugal), Levitronix Technologies, and is chairman of GreenLight Bioscience. His past public board positions include: Genzyme, Astra AB, Pall Corp., Polypore International, Biocon, Ltd. (India) and Cuno, Inc. He chaired the FDA Advisory Committee (2004-06) for Pharmaceutical Science.

In addition, Prof. Cooney is a Trustee Emeritus of Boston Ballet, an Advisor Emeritus of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Chairman of the Leventhal Map and Education Center. Other interests include: high altitude mountaineering (with assents of Denali, Ama Dablam, Mont Blanc, Kilimanjaro, Huascaran), skiing, scuba diving and antique map collecting.


Noubar Afeyan, Ph.D.

Dr. Noubar Afeyan is the founder and CEO of Flagship Pioneering, a company that conceives, creates, resources, and develops first-incategory bioplatform 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 70 life science and technology startups during his 33-year career. He is co-founder and chairman of the board of Moderna, Omega Therapeutics, Generate Biomedicines, Tessera Therapeutics, and Laronde. He is also co-founder and board member of Rubius Therapeutics and YourBio Health.

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.


Past Lectures