Future 50
A New Generation of Leaders Has Arrived

For helping fast-track a vaccine that let the world curb COVID-19

As news trickled in about a deadly novel virus, Hamilton Bennett instinctively understood that Moderna—then a little-known biotech firm—could help. She’d spent four years on the U.S. company’s vaccine portfolio and felt very strongly that the team was positioned to deliver a solid solution. "We had confidence," Bennett said in a STEM Summit keynote last year. "We knew the science."  

They also knew there wasn’t a moment to lose.

So she helped push Moderna to join the race to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine. For 11 months—which felt like an agonizingly long wait to Bennett but is actually blisteringly fast in the world of vaccine development—the company got to work. 

And it delivered. Upon learning that Moderna’s vaccine had shown an efficacy rate of more than 94 percent, Bennett started to cry. Moderna had done it: staked its claim as one of the first biotech firms in the world to develop a viable jab. Since then, Moderna’s vaccine has been given to millions of people worldwide.

For Bennett, it was a matter of following her path. At university, a water sanitation class opened her eyes to the array of ways in which she could apply her passion for science. But her path goes even further back—drawing a straight line from her days growing up in a rural area and learning about nature to the project leader she is today, "dedicated to keeping people safe when the environment poses a risk."  

When COVID hit and Moderna hustled to develop its vaccine, Bennett found herself leaning into the lessons she learned in childhood. "When you grow up on a farm, you learn to be resourceful and to be efficient, to tackle the problem before the next storm comes in—those are skills that have helped me throughout my career," she said.