Yancopoulos leads biotechnology firm Regeneron and has received numerous awards for his scientific contributions.

Dr. George D. Yancopoulos, CC ’80, GSAS ’86, and VPS ’87, will be the keynote speaker at Columbia College’s Class Day on May 17, according to an email sent to students and a press release. Yancopoulos is co-founder, president, and chief scientific officer of biotechnology company Regeneron. The full text of the announcement sent to students can be found below.

Yancopoulos graduated in 1980 and started Regeneron with Dr. Leonard Scleifer nine years later. Since then, he has been the principal inventor of nine FDA-approved drugs and technologies. He has led Regeneron in developing drugs for numerous ailments ranging from cancer and heart disease to Ebola and COVID-19. Regeneron has attained particular prominence over the past two years for developing a monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19, which was approved for emergency use by the FDA in 2020. 

Columbia has honored Yancopoulos before as well. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa and valedictorian, Yancopoulous was awarded the Columbia University Medal for Excellence in 2002, the John Jay Award in 2013, and the Alexander Hamilton Medal in 2019. Outside Columbia, Yancopoulos was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and was honored by the Biotech Hall of Fame in 2004.

The announcement of an in-person Class Day speaker comes after two years of online programming and canceled events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Class Day is an annual ceremony to celebrate the senior class as they graduate, with CCSC selecting an alum to deliver a keynote speech. As President Bollinger stated in an email announcing in-person graduation on May 18, the resumption of end-of-year traditions is “a message of hope” towards a “return to the normal rhythms of academic life.” Yancopoulos will be the first in-person Class Day speaker since Broadway star Brandon Victor Dixon spoke at the 2019 Class Day gathering.

Newsletter sent from the Columbia College Student Council to students on Tuesday, March 29, at 4:02 pm:

Class Day Speaker

  • CCSC 2022 is excited to announce that this year’s Class Day speaker will be George Yancopoulos CC’80, GSAS’86, PS’87! Yancopoulos is a renowned biomedical scientist who is the co-founder, president, and chief scientific officer of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. Furthermore, he is a leading inventor in advancing the company’s seven FDA approved medicines and foundational technologies for the drug development process. 
  • Yancopoulos has consistently demonstrated his commitment and enthusiasm for the Columbia community. In 2013, Yancopolous established the Yancopoulos Family Science Fellowship for Columbia College students in 2013. During his time at Columbia College, he competed as a lightweight rower, graduated as valedictorian, and went on to pursue an M.D. and Ph.D from Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. At the 2019 Alexander Hamilton Dinner, Yancopolous received the honorary medal of distinguished service to the College. Furthermore, his dedication to Columbia shone through in his commitment to donate $10 million to found a “beginner’s mind initiative institute” at Columbia which centers around avoiding stereotypes and judgements of people and ideas. It is an honor to have such a distinguished, inspirational speaker! 

Dr. George Yancopoulos via Columbia College