October 26, 2023

Aspire Institute hosted an engaging virtual event with Stéphane Bancel, CEO of biotech pioneer Moderna, as part of our Distinguished Speaker Series. These events aim to provide access to world-class leaders that inspire talented young leaders across the globe. 

During the hour-long discussion moderated by Aspire Institute co-founder and Harvard Business School professor, Karim Lakhani, Bancel offered attendees keen insights drawn from his life journey and time spent leading Moderna’s rapid mRNA vaccine development during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A core part of Aspire Institute’s mission and the Aspire Leaders Program is unleashing the potential of young leaders worldwide to drive positive change. Bancel’s story resonated strongly with these ideals. Though Moderna faced skeptics early on, Bancel took a leap of faith to become the second employee, motivated by the chance to revolutionize the industry and the world through a then-unproven technology. 

Bancel and Lakhani stressed the importance of cultivating a mindset focused on inventing the future and not accepting the status quo. 

“I think most people believe that the world is a system where there are ways of doing things, and you just live your life by following the system and the practices and the habits and so on,” Bancel explained. 

Bancel encouraged future generations of young leaders to go beyond this to change the world. 

“It might seem crazy but don’t be shy of thinking big, and you can really change the world; it’s only people who think big who do big things,” he said. 

Aspire Institute also seeks to foster this orientation in the next generation of change makers and provide resources to low-income, first-generation college students and recent graduates. Alumni aspire to more than they once believed possible and achieve great things that better the world – with a newfound sense of confidence and a global network to rely on. 

It’s only people who think big who do big things.

Bancel also emphasized lifelong learning, surrounding yourself with mission-aligned people, and always looking for opportunities to make the world a better place. He particularly advised finding the right balance between happiness, purpose, and work. 

“I think that people [who] use their time to make this world a better place are much more happy,” he said. “[Find] what gives you energy and what could be making the world a better place.”

Sharing in the belief that talent is equally distributed worldwide, Bancel hopes that everyone uses their talent to change the world.

The audience appreciated the wisdom Bancel imparted and shared what brings them joy in the chat while chosen Aspire alumni asked insightful questions about ensuring access to healthcare globally and overcoming initial doubts on pursuing innovative ideas. 

[Find] what gives you energy and what could be making the world a better place.

Bancel represented the kind of leader Aspire Institute hopes to empower – inspired, visionary, and dedicated to learning and making a difference in their communities. 


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