Interviewing a Legend: Dr. Roy Vagelos

What an honor to interview and learn from biopharmaceutical legend Dr. Roy Vagelos on April 18th. Thank you to my colleague Olivia Schum, director of The Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Center for Leadership and Ethics, for inviting me to participate.

Dr. Roy Vagelos

Dr. Roy Vagelos

Dr Vagelos led Merck as its CEO from 1985 to 1994 and built the company's pipeline according to one principle: do what is right for the patient. Beyond the many new compounds discovered during his tenure, Dr. Vagelos was incredibly proud of the decision to provide a drug called Mectizan free, for as long as necessary, to eliminate the devastating disease river blindness.

After retiring from Merck, he was persuaded to join a start-up biotech called Regeneron as its Chairman by the CEO Leonard Schleifer and CSO George Yancopoulous. Though his stewardship, the team built Regeneron into a powerful entity, arguably New York's greatest biotech success story, with a market cap in the $40 billion range. 

Dr. Vagelos has received numerous awards, honors, degrees – far too many to name. He and his wife Diana are known for their generosity and support of many organizations; Columbia has been  a major beneficiary. Last year the magnificent Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center opened on the Columbia University Medical Center campus, where Dr. Vagelos is Chairman of the Board of Advisors. He graduated from Columbia's medical school in 1954.