The 2023 Alumni Leadership Award was presented to Manny Simons ’00 on May 1.
Manny is an accomplished leader in the biotechnology industry. After graduating from Suffield, Manny studied neuroscience and music at Harvard and then earned a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from MIT (under Professor Robert Langer) and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. He worked at biotech companies including Voyager Therapeutics, a publicly traded gene therapy company developing potential treatments for central nervous system disorders. In 2016, Manny co-founded Akouos along with leaders in otology, genetics, and gene therapy at Harvard Medical School, Mass Eye and Ear, and University of Iowa. Akouos develops gene therapies for hearing loss and other inner ear disorders, and Manny serves as the company CEO. Akouos had a successful IPO in 2020 and was the first company to receive clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to begin clinical trials for a genetic form of hearing loss. It was acquired in 2022 by Eli Lilly and Company and continues to operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary in Boston, Massachusetts. Suffield was proud to recognize Manny Simons for his groundbreaking achievements centered on improving human lives.
Head of School Charlie Cahn and Director of Development Phil Riegel introduced Manny, and Manny then spoke about his self-described “nonlinear path from Suffield Academy student to today.” This included trying to figure out whether to go into medicine, biomedical research, or both; studying music theory; being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease; falling in love with research; and founding a company that would develop gene therapies with the potential to restore hearing. He noted, “As far as I can tell, I’ve arrived at this point today by doing what engaged me the most, along the way trying to learn as much as possible, and trying to surround myself with wonderful people who are motivated to do things that might improve people’s lives.” He credits getting where he is today to his supportive family and the lessons he learned about community and leadership while at Suffield Academy. Manny said, “It’s here at Suffield that I first felt the value of community, and the role of a supportive community in empowering every individual to be themselves. It was at Suffield that I learned that people are at the center of everything of meaning, and that fostering a genuine concern for others is an absolute prerequisite to developing authentic leadership and to having a positive impact on the world.” Manny concluded his speech by sharing his goals for today’s students, saying, “My wish for all of you is that each of you feels comfortable putting in the difficult and often uncomfortable work to find your own unique voice. Regardless of your area of focus—whether in the arts or sciences or humanities or athletics—I hope you can put yourselves in a position to work relentlessly to find your voice as a human being and as a leader.”
You can read about past Alumni Leadership Award recipients, and view Manny’s speech, here.