Father who founded a biotech company to save his children’s lives to deliver Mason Lecture

Amicus CEO John F. Crowley, inspiration for the film ‘Extraordinary Measures,’ speaks Sept. 20

Matt Weeks | Sep. 04, 2019

John F. Crowley, a biotech executive and patient advocate, will deliver the 2019 Mason Public Leadership Lecture at 10:10 a.m. Sept. 20 in the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries.

As chairman and CEO of Amicus Therapeutics, Crowley oversees a $3 billion, 600-person biopharmaceutical company that works to develop drugs to treat a range of genetic diseases. His involvement in the industry dates back to 1998, when his youngest children, Megan and Patrick, were diagnosed with Pompe disease — a rare and potentially fatal neuromuscular disorder. After the diagnoses, Crowley embarked on an entrepreneurial journey to find a treatment to save the lives of his children and thousands of others.

The Mason Public Leadership Lecture is supported by a gift from Keith Mason, an alumnus of UGA’s Terry College of Business and School of Law who serves as principal for KWM Capital Management in Atlanta. The lecture features prominent business leaders who have contributed significantly to their communities or spent time in a public service role.

“I want to thank Keith Mason for his continued support of this outstanding lecture series,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “His generosity enables the university to create rich learning experiences for our campus community. We are excited to welcome John Crowley to UGA and look forward to hearing his insights on leadership and entrepreneurial innovation.”  

After learning that his children had just months to live, Crowley walked away from his job as marketing director at Bristol-Myers Squibb and sought to change the course of his children’s prognosis. He fought against time as well as the business, medical and scientific establishments that were wary of his hard-charging determination. In 2000, he co-founded a Novazyme Pharmaceuticals, a company exclusively focused on developing a treatment for Pompe disease. Two years later, Patrick and Meagan began to receive an experimental enzyme therapy that saved their lives.

The Crowley family’s story is the subject of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Cure: How a Father Raised $100 Million — and Bucked the Medical Establishment — In a Quest to Save His Children” by Geeta Anand. It also was the subject of the major motion picture “Extraordinary Measures” starring Brendan Frasier and Harrison Ford, as well as a personal memoir, “Chasing Miracles: The Crowley Family Journey of Strength, Hope and Joy,” by Crowley and his wife, Aileen.

“We are honored to hear from John Crowley, whose life demonstrates just how much can be accomplished with determination,” said Terry College Dean Benjamin C. Ayers. “His ability to use entrepreneurship as a force for good is an inspiration, and we are thrilled that our students will have the opportunity to benefit from his advice.”

A commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve for 11 years, Crowley was assigned to the Special Operations Command and served in Afghanistan. He earned a bachelor’s degree in foreign service from Georgetown University, an MBA from Harvard and a law degree from Notre Dame. He serves on the executive committee of the National Board of Directors of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and he is a founding board member of the Global Genes Project. Crowley also is a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute. 

The Mason Public Leadership Lecture is part of the Terry Leadership Speaker Series presented by the college’s Institute for Leadership Advancement. The institute was established in 2001 to develop values-based, impact-driven leaders who serve their communities and organizations. Crowley's lecture also is part of the univeristy Signature Lecture Series, which features speakers noted for their broad, multidisciplinary appeal and compelling bodies of work. 

Requests for accommodations for those with disabilities should be made as soon as possible but at least seven days prior to the scheduled lecture. Please contact the Office of Academic Programs at (706) 542-0383 to request accommodations.