Skip to content

Recognized for Visionary Leadership and Value Creation

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Nov. 15, 2018 Flagship Pioneering today announced the recipient of the firm’s annual Pioneering Leader Award. The 2018 award recognized Ryan Watts, Ph.D., CEO of Denali Therapeutics, a company dedicated to defeating neurodegenerative diseases. Denali has grown rapidly under Dr. Watts’ leadership and made its initial public offering in December 2017. Dr. Watts accepted the award at Flagship's 2018 Annual Meeting, held this week in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Denali was created in 2015 by Drs. Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Ryan Watts, and Alex Schuth, with founding support from Flagship Pioneering. Denali operates from a shared belief that new insights into genetics and biology offer, for the first time, the opportunity to discover and develop medicines for patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, and others. Denali has discovered novel molecular therapeutics and has engineered a proprietary technology to deliver biologic therapeutics across the blood-brain barrier.

“Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, are the greatest medical challenge of our time. Recently, advances in analytical and engineering technologies have fueled an explosion of insights into the causes of specific neurodegenerative diseases and the means to treat them,” said Doug Cole, M.D., managing partner at Flagship Pioneering and founding member of Denali’s board. “A visionary founder and CEO, Ryan quickly guided Denali to recruit one of the best teams in the biotechnology industry to establish a powerful product platform that is generating multiple promising product candidates and to secure a robust capital base to support value creation. His excellent leadership, devotion to beating neurodegeneration, and bold spirit are an inspiring example of pioneering. We congratulate Ryan and look forward to Denali’s future.”

Denali has 13 large- and small-molecule programs across various stages of development, and two strategic pharmaceutical relationships. The company went public in December 2017 in a highly successful IPO launched two and a half years after the company’s Series A.

"Denali was founded on the vision of defeating neurodegeneration. We have now laid the foundation to accomplish this goal and are pushing forward a diverse pipeline of drug candidates based on recent human genetic insights,” said Dr. Watts. "I thank Flagship for their continued partnership and support as we continue to pursue our mission to discover and develop drugs.”

Previous recipients of Flagship’s annual entrepreneurial leadership award include Stéphane Bancel of Moderna (2014), Faheem Hasnain of Receptos (2015), David Schenkein of Agios (2016), and David Perry of Indigo Agriculture (2017).

Learn more about Denali Therapeutics at

About Flagship Pioneering

Flagship Pioneering conceives, creates, resources, and develops first-in-category life sciences companies to transform human health and sustainability. Since its launch in 2000, the firm has applied a unique hypothesis-driven innovation process to originate and foster more than 100 scientific ventures, resulting in over $30 billion in aggregate value. To date, Flagship has attracted $2.5 billion of aggregate capital commitments, of which over $1.4 billion has been deployed toward the founding and growth of its pioneering companies alongside $10 billion of follow-on investments from other institutions. The current Flagship ecosystem includes public companies such as Denali Therapeutics (NASDAQ: DNLI), Evelo Biosciences (NASDAQ: EVLO), Rubius Therapeutics (NASDAQ: RUBY), Seres Therapeutics (NASDAQ: MCRB), and Syros Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: SYRS), as well as private companies such as Axcella, CiBO Technologies, Codiak BioSciences, and Indigo Agriculture. To learn more about Flagship Pioneering, please visit our website: Contact

Genevieve Gadenne, Flagship Pioneering
(617) 868-1888