Ken Gabriel Named Pitt BioForge CEO and Advanced Biomanufacturing Institute Director

January 8, 2024
Ken Gabriel Named Pitt BioForge CEO and Advanced Biomanufacturing Institute Director


As we prepare to break ground on the Pitt BioForge Manufacturing Center in Hazelwood, I am pleased to announce the appointment of Kaigham (Ken) J. Gabriel, an internationally accomplished engineering and life sciences entrepreneur and innovator, as inaugural chief executive officer (CEO) of BioForge and founding director of its Advanced Biomanufacturing Institute (ABI). In these roles, Ken will oversee the design, construction and eventual operations and productivity of the manufacturing center and collaborate with internal and external stakeholders locally, nationally and internationally to realize the BioForge mission. This includes accelerating breakthroughs in the development, manufacturing, scalable production and delivery of new biologic, precision medicines to patients and the marketplace fueled by the world-class biomedical research conducted by Pitt Health Sciences and enhanced by Pitt’s partnership with UPMC, while also partnering with the Hazelwood community. Through leadership of ABI, Ken will also work with academic, clinical, governmental and commercial partners to develop Pittsburgh as a premier destination for advancing biomanufacturing technologies and processes.

Throughout a career spanning more than 40 years, Ken has consistently delivered game-changing innovations to the private, government and academic sectors. Most recently, he served as the founding chief operating officer (COO) of Wellcome Leap, an international organization working at the intersection of life sciences and engineering to deliver critical medical and health care innovations at accelerated timescales. In a little more than two years, Ken was central to launching 10 ongoing programs—ranging from artificial kidneys and depression biology to next-generation surgical delivery and resilient aging—with annual funding of $200 million to more than 150 international research organizations on six continents.

For half a decade prior, Ken was president and CEO of Draper, a spin-off engineering company of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology notably famed for developing the Apollo guidance computer in the 1960s. In this role, he drove double-digit revenue growth for four consecutive years to upwards of $600 million and increased the diversity and number of technical staff from 1,500 to nearly 2,000 personnel. Ken expanded the company’s offerings to include control and guidance for commercial space, autonomous vehicles and field robotics, as well as development of the world’s first adaptive pediatric heart valve and biomedical innovations in end-to-end cell therapy and human organs-on-a-chip platforms for drug discovery. Ken’s roles prior to Draper include corporate vice president and founding colead of the Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group at Google and deputy director and acting director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the U.S. Department of Defense. Ken also was a tenured professor in both the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

Ken earned his PhD in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is regarded as the “godfather” of MEMS—miniaturized and integrated mechanical and electrical devices that help cell phones to orient themselves, air bags know when to fire, biomedical tools to save lives, and make a range of game-changing capabilities possible in smaller packaging. Ken’s MEMS work led him to cofound Akustica, a Pittsburgh start-up that pioneered digital silicon microphones and shipped more than six million units globally before the company was acquired by Bosch. Recognized as a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer, Ken has more than 200 technical publications and presentations and holds 14 patents ranging from signal processing to MEMS and materials.

Please join me in welcoming Ken Gabriel to Pitt Health Sciences and wishing him well in his new roles.

Anantha Shekhar, MD, PhD
Senior Vice Chancellor for the Health Sciences