Michael J. Nathanson: Catalyst for a Cure

Michael J. Nathanson, CEO of the Colony Group in Boston, joined the board of the National Brain Tumor Society just in time to help it reinvent itself after it had merged with another organization.


Living with a non-cancerous brain tumor himself, he was passionate about helping the largest nonprofit brain tumor organization in the world. Michael instituted a strategic planning process that resulted in a roadmap to get big things done.

“Our goal is to be the ‘trusted enabler’ that brings industry, academia and government together to effect system change,” he said. “We set a big goal: to make brain tumors a chronic yet manageable disease by the year 2025.”

The way forward emphasizes three areas:

  • Research: funding and creating partnerships among top research centers.
  • Advocacy: convening research conferences and lobbying Congress.
  • Working with industry: encouraging pharmaceutical attention to cancerous tumors.

“We help guide the research selection process and the research itself,” he said. “We have committees with scientists both on-staff and from the research community who decide where to invest, whether in existing clinical trials or in research we wish to initiate.”

What does it take to succeed?

“You have to have a clear and strong mission,” said Michael. “You must be laser-focused and people have to be disciplined about following it.”


In recognition of his contributions and impact on the National Brain Tumor Society, Michael won the 2016 Invest in Others Catalyst Award at the annual Community Leadership Awards Gala in September. The Catalyst Award is presented annually to an advisor who has been an active stimulus for positive change and displayed entrepreneurial vision and leadership to a non-profit organization for at least 3 years.

“This is a cause that I didn’t choose,” he said upon accepting the award. “Unfortunately, it chose me, but with help from all of you, help from the community, help from Invest in Others, help from all the great people around me, we can beat this disease, and we will beat this disease.”