Pioneering neuroscientist, biotechnology executive and academic leader, Marc Tessier-Lavigne was named Stanford University’s eleventh president in February 2016 and assumed the role on September 1, 2016.
From 2011 – 2016, he served as President of The Rockefeller University, a leading biomedical research university in New York City.
Dr. Tessier-Lavigne was born in Trenton, Ontario, Canada. He received undergraduate degrees in physics from McGill University and in philosophy and physiology from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He earned a Ph.D. in physiology from University College London (UCL) and performed postdoctoral work at UCL and at Columbia University. He then held faculty positions at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and subsequently at Stanford University, where he was the Susan B. Ford Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences. While at UCSF and Stanford he was also an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Dr. Tessier-Lavigne and his colleagues pioneered the identification of molecules that direct the formation of connections among nerve cells to establish circuits in the developing brain and spinal cord. Defects in these mechanisms lead to neurological disorders. These mechanisms also provide targets to assist regeneration of nerve connections after trauma. His contributions have been recognized by numerous prizes and honors, including his election as a Member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine (USA), and a Fellow of the Royal Society (UK), the Royal Society of Canada, the Academy of Medical Sciences (UK), the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
In 2003, Dr. Tessier-Lavigne was recruited to Genentech, a leading biotechnology company, where he became Executive Vice President for Research and Chief Scientific Officer, directing 1,400 scientists in disease research and drug discovery for cancer, immune disorders, infectious diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases, while maintaining an active research laboratory.
In 2011, Dr. Tessier-Lavigne became President of The Rockefeller University, where he was also active in graduate training and in research on brain development and degeneration.
As President of The Rockefeller University, Dr. Tessier-Lavigne worked with faculty, students, staff and trustees to develop and execute a nine-year strategic plan focused on junior and mid-career faculty recruitment; enhancement of graduate and postdoctoral education; establishment of interdisciplinary research programs and acquisition of advanced research instruments; expansion of the university’s translational medical infrastructure; and a $500 million / 2 acre campus expansion project in the heart of Manhattan that broke ground in 2015. He also focused on operational excellence in administration and communications, and on budgetary and fiscal stability. The success of his initial fundraising efforts, including raising more in his first four years than was raised in the university’s previous eight-year campaign, led to expansion of the strategic plan’s scope and fundraising target.
Dr. Tessier-Lavigne has also been an active and visible leader in growing the New York bioscience community, partnering with other local academic institutions (for instance, to help establish the New York Genome Center, which serves twelve institutions), and working with city government and the private sector to stimulate development of the city’s still nascent biopharmaceutical sector.
At a national and international level, Dr. Tessier-Lavigne has been an active spokesperson for societal support of science, through editorials, advocacy and congressional testimony.
Dr. Tessier-Lavigne serves on several scientific advisory, non-profit, and corporate boards, including the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He has also cofounded two start-up companies targeting neurological disease (Renovis) and neurodegenerative disease (Denali).