Monday, August 22, 2016

5 Women to Watch in Boston Biotech

Less than five percent of the CEOs in Fortune 500 companies are women (just one is an African-American woman) but in Boston, several of the most influential biotech executives are women. Perhaps it is the fact that startups with at least one female founder simply perform better. To honor the accomplishments of these pioneering executives, here’s a snapshot at the contributions of five notable women to biotech in Boston.

Susan Windham-Bannister, President and CEO of Biomedical Growth Strategies and the Managing Partner of Biomedical Innovation Advisors

Susan Windham-Bannister was the first President and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center where she oversaw a $1 billion investment to accelerate the growth of biotech in Massachusetts. A trail-blazer, she was the first African-American woman to lead a life sciences growth initiative of this scale. Named one of the 10 Most Influential Women in Biotech by the Boston Globe, Windham-Bannister took the reins at the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center in 2008 at a particularly difficult time in the US economy. Windham-Bannister turned this potential disadvantage into a creative force for opportunity, partnering with the private sector to, as a 2013 Northeastern University report found: “attract $3 in outside investment for every public dollar spent, turning just over $300 million in state funds into more than $1 billion worth of backing for the local life sciences sector.”

Susan Windham-Bannister will be the keynote for the Women’s Leadership Symposium and Dinner at part of our Biotech Week Boston event this October.

Mary Lynne Hedley, Ph.D. Co-Founder, President and Board Member, Tesaro

Named “Life Science Entrepreneur of the Year” by the New England Venture Capital Association this past spring, Mary Lynne Hedley Ph.D. has been rightly called a pharmacology pioneer as she has been developing cancer drugs since 1996. Hedley began her career as the co-founder of Zycos, Inc. (which later became MGI Pharma, then Eisai Co Ltd.) moving on in 2009 to become EVP of Operations and Chief Scientific Officer of Abraxis Bioscience. In 2010 Hedley co-founded (with partner Lonnie Moulder) Boston biotech Tesaro, an oncology-focused biopharmaceutical company. The first drug Tesaro brought to the market, called Varubi, manages the side effects of chemotherapy to alleviate suffering and therefore bring some normalcy to the lives of oncology patients. Tesaro is also developing cancer drug Niraparib which we wrote about here. Late last year, Don Seiffert of Boston Business Journal asked Hedley what it was like being one of a tiny minority of women in biotech. Hedley offered: “It’s probably like being a guy in biotech.” Relatively, that rings true – biotech is a tough industry for anyone, with 9 out of 10 companies that begin clinical trials unable to succeed in bringing those drugs to the market.

Katrine Bosley, Chief Executive Officer, Editas Medicine

In 2016, even the least scientifically minded among us cannot have missed the buzz about “CRISPR” technology. Katrine Bosley is at the front row and center of this pioneering technology as the CEO of Editas Medicine. This June Bloomberg called CRISPR “the genetic tool that will modify humanity” and Editas’ mission is to successfully use CRISPR to repair genes that cause mutations that cause a broad range of diseases. In 2014, when Bosley joined Editas, Alex Lash called her one of the “highest profile CEOs of the biotech scene” and her profile has only gotten higher since then. Bosley began her career at Alkermes, moved on to Highland Capital Partners, then Biogen, and then Adnexus (which was bought by Bristol-Myers Squibb).  In her first CEO role, Bosley led Avila Therapeutics into a buyout from Celgene. Prior to Editas, from 2013-2014 she was an Entrepreneur in Residence at the Broad Institute. This May, Fast Company wrote: “Five years ago this was a medical pipedream…With an aggressive timeline and a giant war chest, the Editas CEO may be the first to treat genetic mutations using CRISPR technology…as soon as next year.”

Hannah Mamuszka, Founder Alva10

You may not have heard of Alva10 – yet – but I'll take a bet that you will soon. From stints at some of the most well known Boston based and Global biotechs - Organogenisis, Takeda and ArQule as a researcher and scientist - to almost twelve years as a Director of Pharmaceutical Alliances at Exiqon (previously Oncotech) and most recently VP of Business Development at Exosome, Hannah Mamuszka’s career “has evolved based on the intersections of biotechnology and business development”. The name of her new company Alva10 was inspired by Thomas Edison - whose middle name was, of course, Alva. Mamuszka explains: "Edison was an amazing inventor and thinker, who thought about challenges completely differently than everyone else at the time, and produced radically different results as a product of that thinking. With Alva10, we are emphasizing the value that diagnostics play in personalized, precision medicine, and approaching that value from a completely different perspective than anyone else (that I've seen) in the industry.” The diagnostics she is talking about can analyze “both DNA and RNA in a molecular liquid biopsy”. This ability to translate Big Data into “well validated, broadly distributed diagnostics that are valued in the healthcare system” Mamuszka says is key to precision medicine being realized.

Barbara Fox, Ph.D. Entrepreneur in Residence at Partners Innovation Fund

With a career spanning almost thirty years that started as a Professor of Medicine at the University of Maryland and led to her current role as Founder and CEO of Avaxia Biologics, Barbara Fox has honed her networking skills into a fine art, enabling her companies to compete and win in the highly competitive world of biotech. Prior to Avaxia, Fox was an Affiliated Entrepreneur at Oxford Bioscience Partners, before that President and Chief Scientific Officer of Recovery Pharmaceuticals (now Shire) - a company she founded that develops medicines for the treatment of addiction. Her first position after teaching was Senior Scientist at Immulogic Pharmaceuticals where she quickly moved from that role into Vice President of Discovery Research. At Immulogic Fox directed programs into vaccine development, allergy, autoimmune disease and substance abuse research.

We are pleased to have Barbara Fox speak at Biotech Week Boston’s Bioprocessing International Conference and Exhibition. She will be presenting “Funding a Therapeutic-Focused Company through Angels: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly”. Fox will also be a panelist for: ”How to Overcome the Funding Gap for Biotech Start-ups and Emerging Companies”. Fox will be joined by Joshua Speidel, Latham Biopharm Group and Ohad Karnieli of Karnieli, Ltd.

Got any more women in Boston biotech you think we need to write about? We’d love to share them with our audience so Tweet to us at @BiotechWkBoston. And don’t forget to check in every week for our Biotech Week Boston blog series. Biotech Week Boston is a hub for life sciences, technology, and business and fosters cross-disciplinary interaction and collaboration to break down silos and spark change. Biotech Week Boston will showcase the most comprehensive science and innovative technologies while fostering partnerships to unlock the full potential of what science and business can achieve. Learn more by clicking the link below.

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1 comment :

Unknown said...

Thank you to my strategic partner at GXP Global for sharing this article with me. As the Founder and CEO of JI-Solutions LLC a woman owned Biomedical and Scientific Consulting Company I often face the dilemmas of being a woman in the scientific arena. We continually strive by providing exceptional service to our clients and welcome the challenge of those who feel leadership is gender based. This article was truly inspiring with over 20 years in this industry. I admire the knowledge displayed by some of the most brilliant minds in research/development and product development but it takes a true visionary to take it the next level.

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