Mike Klowden

Published April 26, 2021.

From the CEO

The past pandemic year has been a tragedy of epic proportion: millions dead, millions more coping with problematic recoveries, and whole economies and societies subjected to enormous strain. Yet the scope and scale has also reminded us of the strength of human adaptability and power of innovation. Yuval Noah Harari, writing in the Financial Times, on the “Lessons from a Year of Covid,” listed ways that “2020 has shown that humanity is far from helpless.”

Harari points out that automation and the internet have made extended lockdowns economically viable; that global trade can continue more or less smoothly because it involved very few humans; and that, thanks to the relentless pace of change in biotechnology, within weeks of the first inkling of a pandemic on the horizon “scientists had not only isolated the responsible virus, but also sequenced its genome and published the information online.”

That achievement was followed by the creation of several, highly effective vaccines in breakneck time. To manage this, private companies worked creatively with regulators (as well as with erstwhile competitors) to test and manufacture their vaccines. Their arrival, we expect, marks the beginning of the end of Covid-19 around the globe.

Such adaptability was mirrored in much of the economy. A year ago, few of us would have thought it possible that much of professional life, as well as academic instruction, could successfully migrate online. Today, Zoom calls and Teams chats keep us remarkably productive. (Although I, for one, am looking forward to resuming greater human contact — as I suspect are you, too.)

As you know from my previous letters, a profound optimism infuses the approach of the Milken Institute. It’s not surprising, then, that my colleagues here at the Institute have also met the challenge of Covid-19, adapting to this sudden and profound dislocation.

As I discussed in the Third Quarter 2020 issue of the Review, the Institute’s specialized centers quickly pivoted from their ongoing programmatic work to focus on pandemic issues on which their expertise could prove useful. Along the way, we’ve learned how to convene impactful events in wholly virtual fashion. And we’ve stayed connected as a team, almost entirely virtually.

Now, as we enter the second year of the pandemic, we are seeing the ramp-up of vaccine distribution and the promise of a return to greater human interaction. The pandemic will have changed us, however — and in some ways for the better. I have no doubt that we will put more emphasis on flexibility and rapid innovation as we confront the next set of challenges before us.

mksig 600

Michael Klowden, CEO