San Francisco Business Times Article - Women make inroads as biotech executives, founders
When Christine Meda attended a 170-person conference with her then employer, a global healthcare firm, in 2006, she was one of 16 women. “I was so shocked. I thought, ‘Can I really change this from within?’” Meda said. As an aspiring executive, Meda left the company shortly thereafter and joined Diamics Corp. Molecular Diagnostics, a cervical cancer medical device startup, as president and COO. After Diamics was sold to Inverness Medical Innovations (now Alere) in 2007, she joined Arcxis, a startup focused on molecular diagnostic extraction devices and reagents, as president and CEO. The company was sold to Fluidigm in 2010. She is now CEO and president of RxDxLink, a personalized medicine consulting firm, chair of Women in Bio’s San Francisco Bay Area Chapter and exploring other executive management opportunities.
“It wasn’t the fault of people I reported to,” she said of leaving the company. “I wasn’t mad. For me, there weren’t a lot of other choices. Nothing that would have allowed me to have that experience.” Meda’s story is not unique. Women have long been underrepresented in the biotech executive force. In fact, only three of the 25 most influential people in the industry are women, according to FierceBiotech’s second annual report on the topic. Two of those three women head up regulatory agencies, not pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. However, now it seems the number of women setting up their own shops or being recruited to lead smaller, emerging companies may be growing. The reason? The fast-paced nature of startups tends to curb the development of bad corporate habits and, as the industry matures, women are helping other women stay in the game.
Women are finding strength in numbers within the biotech industry. Indeed, according to Dr. Una Ryan, managing director of Golden Seeds, an angel-investing group focused on women-led companies, and former president and CEO of AVANT Immunotherapeutics (now Celldex Therapeutics). In fact, the natural mentoring that takes place between women leaders and rising stars is powering much of the industry’s cultural change, she said.
“This is an industry that has had ups and downs, and I think there are people who drop out in the downs, and those women who stayed through the tough years have matured and have pulled others behind them,” she said.
Supporting her female peers drove Meda to involvement in Women in Bio’s San Francisco Bay Area Chapter. Since launching last year, the organization boasts 220 biotech members from companies such as Genentech, Novartis, J&J, Bio-Rad and Hoffmann LaRoche. “They are still going to have to struggle, but they shouldn’t have difficulty finding someone to talk to about it,” said Meda.
Women In Bio – SF Chapter presents an interview with Amy Millman, Springboard Co-Founder and President and Barbara Fox, CEO of startup Avaxia Biologics. Chris Meda, San Francisco Chapter Chair, asks Amy how and why she started Springboard, an organization that sources, coaches, showcases and supports women-led growth companies seeking equity capital for product development and expansion.
The WIB San Francisco Bay Area Chapter
San Francisco, the birthplace of Biotech, is delighted to launch the first California chapter of WIB, and to expand the organization's resources and activities to the dynamic and innovative Bay Area community. The region is home to the world's oldest and largest life sciences cluster employing 52,000 people in over 1,400 companies and major academic centers including UCSF, Stanford, UC Berkeley, and UC Santa Cruz.
The San Francisco Bay Area continues to foster biomedical innovation. Local companies have over 700 products in clinical trials and the region is home to centers of innovation such as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and several well-established incubators.
WIB-San Francisco Bay Area is committed to promoting careers, leadership and entrepreneurship for women in the life sciences industry. We are dedicated to providing education, mentoring and professional development assistance to women and young women who are working in life sciences companies or in professional services firms that support the life sciences sector. We also provide programs to support young women and girls who are interested in careers in science.
Our membership consists of professionals at leading pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device companies, as well as women working in related not-for-profits, academic institutions, and professional services firms such as law, consulting and financial service firms that are supporting the life science community.
Membership Co-chair: Emma Maconick, King & Spalding Co-chair: Alice Leung, Sapientiae
Program (Events) Committee Chair: Joan Kureczka, Kureczka-Martin Associates Vice Chair: Antoinette Konski, Foley & Lardner LLP
Young Women In Bio (YWIB) Co-chair: Lisa Bjornestad, Radiant Research Co-chair: Alissa Faris, Arnold & Porter, LLP
Antoinette Konski, Foley & Lardner, LLP
Christa Nicholas, Burrill & Co
Cindy Steiner, Steiner Intl. Communications
Dawn Hocevar, BioSurplus Inc
Ellen Martin, MBA, Kureczka-Martin Associates
Gabriella Lombardi, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
Holly Logue Esq., 17th Street Legal, LLC
Julia Vax, Arnold & Porter, LLP
Karen Bergman, BCC Partners
Lauren Nelson, MS, Genzyme
Yalia Jayalakshmi, Ph.D., StemPar Sciences
WIB-San Francisco Bay Area Past Events
Young Women In Bio at Genomic Health Inc. a Success
On March 28, 2013 Genomic Health hosted 30 girls in 6th to 12th grades from public, private, and home schools across the SF peninsula, all with an interest in science or math. Genomic Health employees Tara Maddala (YWIB SF Bay Area chapter) and Sara Chenault organized the event, with over fifteen other women from Genomic Health participating, including CEO Kim Popovits who encouraged the girls to be themselves, be the best they can be, and pursue a path that makes them proud of themselves.
The girls were captivated by the personal story of a scientist who helped developed the breast cancer assay at Genomic Health, only to need it herself after she was diagnosed with cancer. Her touching story resonated with the girls, encouraging them to pursue their passions and highlighting the personal rewards that can result. After watching a video of the Oncotype DX assay from sample to result, the girls were paired with employees from Marketing, Research Science, Biostatistics, Legal, Communications and Patient Advocacy, and Customer Service to learn about the many career opportunities in the sciences. The event included a fun scavenger hunt interacting with employees and a mock lab experience working with tumor samples made from JELL-O®. The day ended over dinner, socializing with Genomic Health employees and making new friends.
An excerpt from a follow-up email: “I learned a lot about how your company creates a better life for patients who have breast cancer. Not only did I learn a lot, but I made friends and we exchanged emails. The activities were also great. But, the most fun experience was talking to the employees. Getting to know about their job, what they do and how much they love it.”
YWIB-SF Bay area – Mission Accomplished!
WIB-San Francisco Bay Area Women Network Over Chocolate Deliciousness!
In an evening as interesting as it was tasty, 37 members of the WIB-San Francisco Bay Area heard from former Prion researcher, Sunita de Tourreil, about her career journey from “Mad Cows” to “Happy Chocolate.” Those in attendance networked with fellow WIB members and learned that the field of cacao and chocolate “covers everything from chemistry, politics, agriculture, biology, love, neuroreceptors, flavor, exploitation, vasodilation, addiction, and sustainability.” Sunita, owner and curator at The Chocolate Garage, discussed the emerging world of bean-to-batch chocolates and how chocolate production is affecting the health of communities around the world, and then led a blind tasting of some of the most delicious artisanal chocolate bars imaginable. We also learned how the varied flavors in different chocolates could pair with a surprising variety of wines and beers, including both white and rose sparkling wines, red wines, sauterne and Belgian beer. In addition, each attendee was invited to take a bar of our favorite chocolate of the evening home for further enjoyment. Definitely a fun evening as well as an educational one!
San Francisco Bay Area Holds East Bay Speed Networking Event
The San Francisco Bay Area Chapter hosted a regional speed networking event in the East Bay this month. The event attracted not only ~30 locals but a few “non-natives” from La Jolla, Cambridge, MA and Durham, NC! The partakers no shed and networked in double time at DOE Joint Genome Institute the in Walnut Creek. JGI not only served as a fantastic backdrop for building valuable connections, but the participants were treated to an education about the work performed at the lab. Did you know JGI scientists sequenced chromosomes 5, 16 and 19 as part of the greater human genome project and continue to perform next gen sequencing related to clean energy, environmental characterization and cleanup? Cindy Silva, mayor of Walnut Creek, also spoke to the group about the city’s history and prospect as a life sciences hub. Be sure to join us at our next event – there’s one right around the corner!
San Francisco Solves the Awkward Silences With its First Speed Networking Event
Over 40 life science professionals from the San Francisco Bay Area mixed excitement with efficiency, splendor and speed as they met and chatted with new faces against the spectacular scenery of the San Francisco Bay. K&L Gates, in the Embarcadero Center, hosted our first speed networking event, which was a well-choreographed and highly coordinated function. Everyone exchanged key and fun information about themselves in 2 1/2 minute time segments. The room was filled with the sounds of interesting conversation, interrupted only by the buzzer signaling it was time to move on. Huge thanks to Monica Kuniyoshi from K&L Gates for being the timekeeper and helping with the event. Stay tuned for dates and times of further speed-networking events for the Peninsula and East Bay areas.
WIB-San Francisco Bay Area Chapter Launch is a Smashing Success
On March 22, 2012, we networked. We received inspiration. We energized one another. We partied. We made plans for the future. Over 150 women gathered at UCSF’s Mission Bay Conference Center in San Francisco. Kim Popovits, the Chairman, President and CEO of Redwood City cancer diagnostic test developer, Genomic Health, Inc., fielded questions from a rapt audience about her path to the top position at the company. Her main message –- find mentors and advisors who will push you to take risks. Get outside your comfort zone and dare to fail. WIB’s President Phyllis Dillinger and Laura Shawver, CEO of Cleave Biosciences, also addressed the audience. It was a fabulous night and we look forward to our next event. To read an article from the San Francisco Business Times summarizing the event, click here.
WIB-San Francisco Bay Area Chapter Chapter at JP Morgan Healthcare Conference
Women in Bio-San Francisco enjoyed some excellent exposure, promotion and attention at the Biotech Showcase. San Francisco Chapter Members tirelessly evangelized the WIB Mission and promoted the San Francisco Chapter's upcoming launch event to conference participants and guests at several evening receptions including Burrill and Fenwick and West. It was an eventful fun week that generated momentum, mailing lists, and an offer to exhibit at an upcoming Bay Area Conference! Way to go WIB! Thank you in particular to Chris Eckhaus for her tireless work in organizing the table at Biotech showcase and to all San Francisco Chapter Members, Burrill, Fenwick & West, Biotech Showcase, and National WIB for your support and assistance in making this event so successful for WIB San Francisco.
From left to right: Ellen M Martin, Joan Kureczka and Julia Vax
SAN FRANCISCO | UPCOMING EVENT
Join WIB-San Francisco Bay Area for a Fireside Chat with Gail Maderis
Please join us in conversation with Gail Maderis, President and CEO of BayBio, Wednesday June 19, 2013, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. PDT at the Stanford Faculty Club, Palo Alto, CA. Hear about her career trajectory and get the inside scoop on strategies that Gail has utilized to engage in an exciting career. Make sure to bring questions. As always, wine, hors d’oeuvres, and time to network before and after the chat. Click here to register and for more information.