Dr. Garo Armen, CEO, Agenus

NK&A Passionate Profiles

At NK&A we work with a lot of passionate people—entrepreneurs who charge forward, driven by their passionate pursuit, whatever that may be. It got us wondering, what effect has your passion had on the world? On the people around you? The following is the first in a series of “passion profiles” on some of our most passionate clients. We think they’ll inspire you as much as they inspire us.

Dr. Garo Armen, CEO, Agenus 

Dr. Garo Armen believes that creating positive change in the world starts with improving your health. “You have to be a healthy human. If you’re not healthy, you’ll expire, the world stops, nothing else matters.” This belief has served as the backbone of all his passionate pursuits—from the food he eats grown on his organic farm in Maine, to the biotech company he started to improve the immune system’s ability to fight cancer and disease, to his global philanthropic outreach to strengthen and connect rural villages in Armenia.

“You start with the source of your food and make sure that what you eat is, indeed, healthy. And then you make sure the habit of what you consume is healthy. And then you say, ‘Okay, what if I get sick, what do I do?’” Garo explains. “What I’m doing in the context of my company is really the best means of treating a problem.”

What he’s doing at his company has been finding better ways to utilize the immune system, the body’s natural remedy, to fight cancer and disease. Twenty years ago when he co-founded the biotech Agenus, making a claim like “immunology will cure cancer” was admittedly crazy; people laughed and told him it was impossible. But today the field of immuno-oncology is beginning to make real breakthroughs with significant potential on the near horizon. As Garo points out, “Passion is believing in something and not letting the world convince you otherwise.”

In 2003, Garo turned his attentions to Armenia. During a visit he recognized a need for sustained and systematic improvement in the overall health of Armenia’s rural villages. The Children of Armenia Fund was born. Starting with schools, then education reform, then health clinics and medical training, Garo’s organization has created a model for how to find and assemble the resources necessary to effect real change for rural populations. They started with one village, and now plan to expand the model to 100 villages over the next decade.

In many ways, Garo is a rebuilder of things in need of repair—clean food, strong bodies, vibrant communities. All along the way it has been his conviction and clarity of purpose that has helped him assemble and align the right resources and tools, inspiring those around him in the process to dig in for the long haul. He has built a community fueled by a united passion. “We don’t live in a vacuum,” he says emphatically. “We have to better our environment. We have to better the world.”

Click here to support Garo’s efforts in Armenia by donating to The Children of Armenia Fund.