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President, COO, Alnylam
IN HIS FREE TIME: Runs marathons to raise money for Alzheimer's disease
JUST CELEBRATED: His son's Bar Mitzvah
Barry Greene makes no pretense about a proper work/life balance. "I don't separate the hours of the day into when I'm working and when I'm not," says Greene. "I'm actually never off. Sometimes I sleep—maybe four hours—but I think about what we do all the time."
Greene is part of the team at Alnylam that is working to harness the science of RNA interference (RNAi)—a mechanism in the body that inhibits gene expression—to transform the way disease is treated. He says that putting in the hours is par for the course: Greene grew up in a working class neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY, and his parents always said that to create anything in life, he had to work hard.
And as of late, some of this work looks like it's begun to pay off. In 2004, Alnylam published a study in Nature showing that RNAi worked in rodents, and another in 2006 that documented RNAi's effect in primates. Earlier this year, RNAi was shown to work in humans, with proof of concept. Meanwhile, the company has secured several premium partnerships, including a whopping $1 billion discovery deal with Roche.
The culture at Alnylam reflects this excitement. "It's not uncommon to see scientists high-fiving in the hallways or working collaboratively," says Greene. And why shouldn't they? "Every morning, we can get up and say we're going to impact disease—and that's exactly what we should be doing. If you drift to far from that, you make mistakes."