2019 Alexander Hamilton Medal Recipient
Dr. George D. Yancopoulos CC’80, GSAS’86, PS’87 is Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’ co-founder, president and chief scientific officer. During the last 30 years, he has worked with his longtime partner, Dr. Leonard S. Schleifer, to build Regeneron into a leading science-driven biotech company. Regeneron has invented (in-house, in its own laboratories) and developed seven FDA-approved medicines for serious diseases such as cancer, vision-threatening eye diseases, heart disease, atopic dermatitis, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
After graduating as valedictorian of his class at both Bronx Science, where he was a Westinghouse Science Talent Search winner, and the College, Yancopoulos earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biophysics from GSAS and then an M.D. from P&S. At GSAS, he did seminal work with legendary molecular immunologist Dr. Fred Alt. Yancopoulos was pursuing a career in academia when he met and joined Schleifer.
Yancopoulos is a unique biotech leader who has co-invented — along with key members of his team — Regeneron’s foundational technologies for target and drug discovery (the TRAP, VelociGene and VelocImmune platforms), as well as its breakthrough medical treatments (EYLEA, Praluent and Dupixent). The Regeneron team continues to lead biotech innovation, such as through the Regeneron Genetics Center, a world-leading effort that has already sequenced more than 700,000 people. Regeneron routinely appears on Forbes’ list of the most innovative companies in the world.
Yancopoulos has authored more than 400 papers and holds more than 100 patents. He was among the 10 most highly cited scientific authors in the world during the 1990s, and the only one in industry on the list. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2004, was inducted into the Biotech Hall of Fame in 2014, was named Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2016 (along with Schleifer) and has received numerous other awards and honors. Yancopoulos is passionate about inspiring young talent to pursue scientific careers through numerous STEM and internship programs, and under his leadership Regeneron has taken on the $100 million sponsorship of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious high school science competition, formerly sponsored by Westinghouse and Intel, and now known as the Regeneron Science Talent Search.
Service to the College
A dedicated supporter of initiatives across both the College and University, comprising financial aid, athletics, campus revitalization and scientific advancements, Yancopoulos is a member of the Medical Center’s Precision Medicine Council and vice-chair of its Board of Advisors. In 2013, he established the Yancopoulos Family Science Fellowship for Columbia College students.
Yancopoulos graduated from the College Phi Beta Kappa and as valedictorian. He was a member of the varsity crew and a recipient of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Watch Award, an honor given to the senior student-athlete with the highest grade point average. Yancopoulos was a 2013 recipient of a John Jay Award for distinguished professional achievement, as well as the 2002 University Medal for Excellence recipient.