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WIB-Southern California: Member Benefits – Virtual Tech Tools Demos (Zoom, Slack, Social Link), May 8, 2020

Posted By Isabel Wen, Monday, May 18, 2020

On May 8, 2020, the WIB-Southern California chapter held "Member Benefits – Virtual Tech Tools Demos (Zoom, Slack, Social Link)" online. The event was organized by WIB leaders Jennie Starr and Isabel Wen. Due to popular demand, Jennie demonstrated benefits and features of online networking tools Zoom, Slack, and Women In Bio's Social Link. The 24 attendees tuned in from San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Boston, learned useful tips on how to host a Zoom meeting like a pro, and how to engage directly with other WIB members over Slack and Social Link.

The meeting kicked off with Jennie's top 3 tips for hosting virtual events on Zoom before diving into further details of how to set up Zoom meetings for presentations and events, including the nuances of the setting configurations when creating and managing meeting invitations, and how to avoid ever having unwanted attendees.

Tip #1: Use your phone to connect to audio. Usually your phone audio will remain stable even if your internet is not. This way, you can make sure you don't miss anything. You can also pair your phone audio with your computer by entering your participant ID from the computer session, located on the top left of your Zoom window.

Tip #2: Always have a partner in crime. If you are presenting or facilitating a discussion, it helps to have at least one other person in the meeting who will co-host with you to help manage participants. It will make the meeting much more efficient and allow one person to stay focused on presenting and the other on administration.

Tip #3: Use your Host features, especially for 15 or more participants. You can manage the audio of all participants by muting/unmuting and managing participant capabilities such as unmuting themselves or screen sharing.

Then we discussed the wonderful benefits to Women In Bio's Social Link, exclusive to WIB members only. In Social Link, members have access to the entire WIB directory of members, can see & share posts with their local chapter or nationally, and choose to share professional profiles to find members with specific shared interests. It's a great way for members to connect with each other with intention. WIB leaders also have access to national resources for their committees on best practices and other helpful tools.

Jennie provided an overview of Slack and why it is beneficial to our chapter. Slack creates an intentional space for quick communication with members of the WIB-Southern California community, preventing email overload and allowing sharing of resources in an organized fashion. There are topic-based and group-based channels including channels for job board, MAPS peer groups, and networking, as well as direct messaging individuals. The extended Slack community for WIB-Southern California is a membership benefit. If you are a member of WIB-Southern California and you have not yet requested Slack access, you can do so by e-mailing southerncalifornia@womeninbio.org.

Finally before closing out the lunch hour, we demonstrated Zoom's Breakout Rooms feature so that attendees had an opportunity to experience it firsthand if they had not before. This is an extremely powerful tool that Zoom provides and allows participants a chance to discuss in small groups while staying on the call within a larger event.

The session was recorded. WIB members can access the recording here.

Tags:  2020  Past Events 

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WIB-Southern California: Member Spotlight with Jennie Starr, JD, MA

Posted By Jess Alexander, Tuesday, May 12, 2020


Jennie Starr, JD, MA 

How long you have been a WIB member?

I joined WIB in 2017 for the laser focus on life science and biotech. Monthly educational programs are high quality and my regional network has expanded exponentially. I have been a member of our Del Mar and Director’s Rising group since their inception, benefiting from a community that is down to earth and generous. WIB is entrepreneurial which I really like. We have piloted programs designed for our region’s needs such as our Founder’s Forum for startup first time CEOs created by Sybille Hauser, and our Executive Round Table which I designed with Talia Hight and Ellen Lubman. I Chair a National committee where we share best practices for Executive programs across chapters; it is meaningful to see how rapidly we can have an impact across the country together. We can see our progress fueling the development of strong human capital in the region’s life science industry and contributing to the pipeline of women candidates in management teams and boards. 

What you are most excited to have accomplished so far as a WIB member?

Alyssa Masters, our Chair emeritus, gave me the unique leadership opportunity to found and then expand the MAPS professional development program. I recruited 30+ of the most amazing women who have contributed incredibly to making MAPS what it is today. We began with a few peer groups, and within a few years expanded to three distinct programs with 400+ applicants and an average of 150-200 active monthly participants. At least nine peer groups meet in San Diego, but also in Irvine and Los Angeles (W. Hollywood, Pasadena, and Torrance). Our Mentoring Circles support individual growth plans and the Executive Round Table for Sr. VPs and C-Level professionals is a powerhouse on-going cohort. It is gratifying to see the interest in these programs and we will be expanding them and opening new unique programs to meet demand. 

What is your vision for WIB this year as Chair of the WIB-Southern California chapter?

The women in our community are inspiring and I’m always amazed women with similar interests haven’t met each other yet. I am committed to breaking down barriers and finding ways to introduce people with similar interests, fix resource challenges, introduce the entrepreneur to the grant writer, connect women with similar areas of interest like rare disease, or microbiome. My dream is to create such meaningful relationships we can launch new businesses and drive life science innovation. All my strategic goals for the year relate to deepening relationships and making meaningful connections between our members. 

Your comment on science

I am not a scientist, but I work in life sciences and biotech to support the brilliant and passionate men and women who push the envelope leveraging their understanding of science to improve the human condition. I don’t “do science” but I am passionate about supporting those that do and helping to get their solutions out the door to benefit society at large. 

Your comment on women in science

Women breathe life, curiosity, creativity, heart, and balance into science in so many ways. The intellectual curiosity, passion and drive, strength in building and nurturing teams, and unique leadership skills all lead to the success of companies in life science. Empowering women to excel, advance, innovate, become entrepreneurs, and take leadership roles is critical. It’s a privilege to be a part of opening doors and providing programs that connect and professionally develop Southern California’s women to success. 

Tags:  2020  Member Spotlight 

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WIB-Southern California: MAPS Peer Group Launch Event – 5th Cohort, April 28, 2020

Posted By Stephanie Verbrugghe , Thursday, May 7, 2020
On April 28, 2020, the WIB-Southern California chapter launched the 5th cohort of their MAPS Peer Group program. “MAPS” stands for “Mentorship, Advisors, Peers, and Sponsorship”. The event took place online and brought together 63 enthusiastic participants from across Southern California. EnCorps, presented by Tanja Schroeder, was our generous event sponsor. EnCorps is an organization that helps STEM professionals transition into teaching in high needs schools. 

The event was organized with a deft hand by WIB volunteer Isabel Wen, Chair, MAPS WIB-Southern California. She, together with the participation of several other WIB members (Jennie Starr, Chapter Chair, WIB-Southern California, Sibylle Hauser, Chair, Entrepreneur Center & Chair, Founders Forum, Talia Hight, Co-Vice Chair, eMAPS Executive Round Table, Kelly Kemp, Co-Vice Chair, Directors Rising, Veronique Baron, Co-Vice Chair, Mentoring Circles, Yuchen Wang, Co-Vice Chair, MAPS Peer Groups, and Soneela Ramesh, MAPS Leader, Technology Tools), gave an overview of WIB’s mission, the Southern California Chapter’s purposes, activities, active members, values and culture. They described the different initiatives and opportunities offered through the MAPS programs.

MAPS as a whole has had 480+ applicants across its three programs: 1) Peer Groups, 2) Mentoring Circles and 3) the Executive Round Table. This 5th cohort of the Peer Groups will be split in 9 groups which include geographic areas of Del Mar, Carlsbad, La Jolla, Irvine, W. Hollywood, Torrance, and Pasadena. There are also two specialty groups, one for Consultants and another, a Founders Forum for entrepreneurs. The Peer Group program is supported by 30+ volunteer leaders. 

Members will meet monthly for a six month period (April to September 2020) online for different geographic groups across Southern California. They will support and coach each other and share experiences on different topics focusing on career development, transitions, skills development, and entrepreneurship. Participants will select topics based on the challenges they face and on their personal goals (public speaking, role-playing, personal development and assessments, networking, etc.). Group Leaders will facilitate the groups’ discussions and will also invite external speakers when useful, leveraging WIB’s extensive and diverse network. One of the keys to this program’s success is the participants’ mutual respect and benevolence. Groups are meant to be a safe place where members develop themselves but also help to lift others. In the past, some participants attribute success in landing new jobs to their involvement in the program. 

At the end of the event, attendees had a chance to form mini peer groups and to casually discuss and network… a nice socializing time from our women’s caves! 

Next steps: Peer Group Leaders will follow-up with their groups and plan meetings in May.

Interested in joining the program? This cohort is now closed, however, registration is already open for the 6th cohort (October 2020 to March 2021). The WIB-Southern California MAPS team also offers leadership opportunities and is currently looking for a Vice-Chair, a Sponsorship Lead, and a Membership/Attendee Outreach Lead.

Please share your feedback at southerncaliforniamaps@womeninbio.org.

Event Sponsor: 
Tanja Schroeder
Southern California Recruitment Coordinator

Tags:  2020  Past Events 

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WIB-Southern California: LaunchBio - Larger Than Life Science webinar Thinking Ahead Our Regenerative Future, March 26, 2020

Posted By Lamia Merabet, Tuesday, May 5, 2020

On March 26, 2020, the WIB-Southern California chapter held for the third year a joint-event with LaunchBio. “Larger Than Life Science -Thinking Ahead Our Regenerative Future" was organized as a remote panel discussion, swiftly adapting to the COVID-19 precautionary measures of spatial distancing.

We would like to thank our Co-Sponsors, LaunchBio and RoosterBio, who co-hosted with the Women In Bio Southern California chapter the LaunchBio’s inaugural virtual event. Also, we are very appreciative of LaunchBio’s sponsors whose companies’ names can be found on LaunchBio’s website, in the closing section.

Our WIB-Southern California chapter’s volunteers have deployed tremendous efforts in organizing such a large event; moreover, they have quickly adjusted to the new situation and have managed successfully. Kudos to Kristina Manvelian and Erica Menser, WIB-Southern California Program Leads; Gloria Lin and Haley Kim, WIB-Southern California Program Sponsorship Leads and Fundraisers; Sybille Hauser, WIB-Southern California Program  Fundraiser; and Jessica Alexander, WIB-Southern California Program Communications Chair.

The event attracted a large audience of 700 individuals, among which 160 attended live; they indulged in their own favorite refreshments and snacks, self-served in their cozy home space. All 700 registrants expressed interest in watching the webinar, at their convenience. They were provided with the link, hereafter shared: https://vimeo.com/401550917

Becky Beattie, Director of Programs and Marketing at LaunchBio, in her introductory allocution, highlighted LaunchBio’s strong commitment to human health 

Kristina Manvelian, WIB-Southern California Program Leader has represented the Women In Bio local chapter, sharing about the vast array of initiatives that promote women's’ career and leadership: Peer groups; Mentoring circles; Young Women In Bio STEM seminars; Boardroom of Directors and Executive; and Entrepreneurship initiatives. She enhanced WIB as an inclusive nationwide organization of all genders and educational backgrounds.
She also warmly thanked the event sponsor, RoosterBio, and delineated their mission, product line, and recent successes.

Matt Bresnahan, Partner at Wilson Sonsini, has leveraged his patent lawyer expertise of biotech companies at all stages of growth in his Moderator role, and ensured a sparkling flow to the discussion with the three panelists.

First: he has outlined the major themes stemming from a breadth of regenerative medicine 
- Techniques, materials, and therapeutic indications
- Regulatory pathways within the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- Fundraising strategies
- Intellectual Property (IP) for cell products and tissues

Second, he shared a broad definition of regenerative medicine, focusing on three main elements: the product type (allogenic or autologous); materials; indications. Staying abreast of the latest discoveries, he mentioned a recent article about a research conducted at the Sanford Burnham Institute in San Diego with regards to the regeneration of 120-year old stem cell lines.

Panelists were seasoned professionals, all highly involved in this innovative field and eager to share their experience and perspectives on their success stories.

Samuel Chuang, Ph.D., Director Scientific Advisory Services at Charles River Laboratories, with a tenure of 13 years and a strong sought-after acumen. He has been providing sound advice and help to clients for the development of research strategies, early discovery, market launch, and regulatory perspectives. 

Dr. Chuang presented an overview of the FDA divisions: the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER); the Center for Device and Radiological Health (CDRH); and the Center for Evaluation of Biologics and Research (CBER). Up to the 80’s, most of the drugs were small molecules for which CDER was using traditional pathways and thoroughly proceeding to a lengthy evaluation of the safety profile and their claimed efficacy, through the review of pharmacology and toxicology substantiated studies.

Upon appearance of biologics in the spectrum of promising therapies, a schism has split the review of such products between CDER (established therapies, such as: therapeutic monoclonal antibodies; proteins intended for therapeutic use; immunomodulators, and growth factors) and CBER (encompassing Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products (ATMPs): Gene therapies; Human Cells, Tissues, and Cellular and Tissue-Based Products (HCT/Ps) requiring licensure; and Xenotransplantation products).

CBER had to develop appropriate approaches and to customize its programs to the newly discovered products: exploring potential toxicities; customizing its programs (CAR-T cell therapies, gene editing); evaluating new models (Xenograft using a disease model rather than a drug-based pharmacological model); considering immunogenicity as prevalent to systemic toxicity; understanding the biodistribution; addressing the risk of cell proliferation or differentiation.
In fine, the discovery was extended on how the biological product worked, what was its target, and which potential indications it was aimed to serve. The steady collaborative communication between scientists, sponsors and regulators has proved beneficial.

As the gap was identified and the need for progress was intensified, the U.S. legislature has remarkably helped in enacting the 21st Century Cure Act, signed at the end of 2016, which aimed to expedite the new progress of medicine. 

Its main add-ons were as follows:
- The breakthrough devices program, designed to speed the review of certain innovative medical devices
- The Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapy designation (RMAT), that offered a new expedited option for certain eligible biologics products. 
- Fast-track designation, acceleration approval, breakthrough therapy designation: all were regulatory pathways that supported sponsors’ efforts by speeding up their drugs through the FDA evaluation.

Westbrook Weaver, Ph.D.; Founder and CEO of the San Diego located start-up named Tempo Therapeutics Inc.

 As a BioEngineer and BioMedical Engineer, Dr. Weaver has developed a platform technology which uniqueness resides in the development of materials –that would regenerate skin, bone, heart, and brain – presenting a triple advantage of stealthiness, low-invasiveness, and high-precision of engineering so that their introduction in situ allows for a powerful regenerative medicine that would not be hindered by patient immunity.

The product being a tissue physical scaffold, presenting a large-scale porosity that makes it an expandable sponge, which would intimately integrate with the human wounded tissue, the distinction between a device and a biologic was a blurred line. Hence, the collaborative communication with the regulatory agency was engaged early on, aiming to clarify for both parties the aspects defining the product design and function as well as its mechanism of action. This was crucial to obtain a proper designation of the product and to streamline the development process with CDRH. Also, the mode of regulation of immunogenicity was related to the product physical characteristics rather than biological properties.

Through the Pre submission process (Q-Sub), the opportunity to file for a Direct De Novo pathway rather than a 510(k) was seized, bringing the invaluable arguments of absence of predicate and low-risk classification (class II device); it was pivotal to envision a timeline process of 18-24 months.
Moreover, as a therapy for an open wound, no clinical performance is required besides post-marketing data reporting. Clarity at an early stage has tremendously helped in financing the development of the product in the long-run.

To jumpstart their phase 1, the post-docs at the company have leveraged their grant writing skills, have drafted R21 applications (a 6-page Grant Plan) and have quickly obtained funding from Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) in the amount of $ 223,000. Building up confidence and mastery for the phase 2, they have morphed into Business Plan writers while adding a flair of commercialization and persuasion to their robust core research plan; their efforts were rewarded with $ 1.5 million.

Later on, presenting a tangible result to their potential private investors and venture capitalists (VC), they were able to build trust and negotiate on convertible notes that would not corner them into valuing the company whereas they had no visibility at that stage on the total budget that would be needed. They swiftly passed from a seed-1 to a seed-2 in their first venture round.

From this great journey, they would advise to thoroughly seek for a VC with a sound experience in this industry, not to disappoint them or even lose them half-way in the project that might span 3 years before fruition.
Another advice to heed is to move fast in order to prevent any untoward halting of the technology development: 
- sustainment by raising funds, 
- progression by conducting studies, 
- vision by exploring potential applications that were unforeseen. 

Karen Christman, Ph.D.; Professor, Bioengineering UC San Diego whose works mainly focused on injectable materials for the repair and the regeneration of tissues. Dr. Christman is also the co-founder of Ventrix https://ventrixheart.com, a clinical start-up organization that has just finished a phase 1 trial and is heading to a phase 2 stage for an injectable hydrogel which would be delivered via intracatheter to the heart, aiming to prevent heart failure consecutively to a myocardial infarction.

It has been designated as a biologic, a decade ago by CBER. Indeed, a substantive advantage as it entitles to 12-year market exclusivity.
In the cases where a biosimilar would be competitively developed, its path would not be a straightforward way as would be that of a 510(K) from an existing Premarket approval (PMA) device.

Nevertheless, fundraising was challenging as largely attributed to cancer therapies. They have wisely pursued non-dilutive funding, obtaining grants from SBIR in the amount of $ 4 million as well as from the National Science Foundation (NSF).Despite the capping of funding from National Institutes of Health (NIH), they were able to leverage greater amounts as the Congress allowed them to go beyond the funding limit for therapies towards heart disease and heart failure. Translational grants were also found to be very useful to finance their clinical trials.

Q & A session:
At the end of the enlightening hour, Becky Beattie has efficiently managed to share several questions from the audience:

What endpoints are used in the clinical trials?
Dr. Christman talked about the necessity to be thinking creatively for endpoints that were meaningful and relevant in the context of the clinical trial and the product under evaluation. For instance, it was savvy to choose electrophysiology endpoints to map the organ and target the injection more precisely, or imaging modalities.
Dr. Weaver highlighted the timing factor as well as the technology capabilities in enabling the development and measurement of more precise or elaborate endpoints: in the past, the usual endpoint was limited to gauging the percentage of wound healed; nowadays, sponsors might leverage machine-learning algorithms to identify new endpoints that are translatable. For instance, they could use higher spectrum technology for identification of granulated tissues and vascularization.

Clinical trial location, size, progress?
Dr. Christman explained that the Phase 1 was only conducted in the US.
Interestingly, the Phase 2 which is conducted outside of the US as well, will be ruled in several countries as a Biologic, but as a Device in Germany and Japan. It will enroll 60 patients, randomized in a 1:1 pattern, with a control group.

Envisioning a 3-D printing?
Dr. Weaver replied that the 3-D printing would require the utilization of bio-ink and is still a more nascent, precoce technology with too many steps. One should consider that it would indeed spark the interest of VCs.

The Moderator, Mr. Bresnahan, has provided some hints about the IP for cell products and tissues: it seemed not worthy to file worldwide, but strategically in the main countries that would cover about 70% of the market.

In conclusion, Dr. Chuang summarized the quintessential fallacies in biotech:
He warned that the drug development, when perceived as a step-in-progression, brings too narrow a focus to the sponsor and stakeholders.

The three paradigms of drug development are 
- Manufacturing, 
- Clinical Trial Design, 
- Pharmacology/Toxicology approach.
Success requires a well-thought, carefully planned, and time-efficiently executed partnership program that would support the aforementioned intertwined paradigms.

More WIB-Southern California events to come!

LaunchBio: https://www.launchbio.org
RoosterBio: https://www.roosterbio.com
Women In Bio-Southern California: https://www.womeninbio.org/socal

Tags:  2020  Past Events 

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WIB-Southern California: Virtual Happy Hour, April 20, 2020

Posted By Isabel Wen, Monday, April 27, 2020

WIB-Southern California’s Virtual Lunch/Happy Hour Series continues. Read on for a recap from the lively discussion on April 20, 2020 that drew 16 life science professionals from our community over their choice of a beverage from home. 

Highlights from our Virtual Happy Hour #4 this evening, topic "Share Your Experiences: What Positive Things Has Your Company Offered, an Interesting Benefit, Activity, Inspiration, During the Crisis To Make Working or Your Life Easier?" with Amy Buono, VP People and Culture at Genomatica, and our very own Jennie Starr, Director of Marketing BioForm Solutions & Chair WIB-Southern California.

Articles Shared 

  1. Here's what every major company is doing about the coronavirus pandemic
  2. The COVID-19 Corporate Response Tracker: How America's Largest Employers 
  3. Are Treating Stakeholders Amid the Coronavirus Crisis
  4. Coronavirus is chance to show value of remote work

Workout Apps


Virtual Fitness Classes

  • Peloton
  • Exos
  • Yoga6

Staying Connected

  • Daily "water cooler" sessions with teammates, talk about cooking or TV. Not allowed to talk about work
  • "Book club" with TV shows
  • 30 min standup meetings - Challenge yourself - what are you doing - new recipes, building, workout, etc.
  • Zoom Karaoke
  • Jackbox Games
  • Two Truths & a Lie -- great happy hour / ice breaker

Work Resources / Programs to Support Employees

  • Culture - keep employees & safety in mind. Working in the lab is optional, but you must be productive at home.
  • Paid maternity/paternity 8 week leave
  • Health buckets - Mental, Physical, Emotional -- collating resources to share with employees in any of 3 buckets
  • Provide online therapist
  • Flexibility & support for parents working from home, understanding
  • Lab space: sign-ups and limiting people in specific areas / benches proximity, etc.
  • Lab space: staggering work schedules to avoid overcrowding while maintaining 36+ hr week (eg. 3 days, 12 hr/day for some staff, another 3 days for other staff)
  • Collecting funds for subsidizing employee resources
  • Blue EQ - training emotional intelligence. Working on improving skills -together- can only help us come out the other side stronger.
  • Daily standups (5 min or less) to check in with the team, i.e. what we're working on. Standard practice in the software industry.

Join us for the next Virtual Happy Hour scheduled for 5/4/2020 - Happy Hour - Share Your Experiences: How Has COVID-19 Impacted Your Role (and other Roles/Teams) At Work?  RSVP  (via Zoom) 6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. PDT.

Tags:  2020  Past Events 

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WIB-Southern California: Chapter Leadership Newsletter – April 2020 – Connect Through New Virtual Lunch and Happy Hours & Slack Channels

Posted By Jennie Starr, Friday, April 24, 2020


My name is Jennie Starr and I am WIB-Southern California’s new Chair as of April 1, 2020. Alexa Tralla, our Vice-Chair, and I are finalizing plans and we invite you warmly to share needs, hopes, and dreams so we can build programs ideally suited for you.

We'll be using this new Chapter Leadership Newsletter to give you insight into the community in Southern California and share more about how we are tailoring our offerings to suit needs you're sharing. It is my goal to continue to strengthen and grow our chapter so that WIB can be your extended family; one that consistently helps you reach your goals expands your network and helps you make lasting personal and professional valuable relationships. 

As we manage through Covid19: crazy schedules, work turned upside down, homeschooling, worry about loved ones and our health, and the world at large, the rise and common use of Zoom opens the door to opportunities for us to introduce you to each other in new ways. 

Make the most of your membership and/or being a guest at one of our programs and take a few minutes to get to know our incredible community.  Chapter members can open doors for you; personally and professionally. They can listen and advise. They can mentor and support.  

Let off steam with an upcoming virtual lunch hour, share work-related experiences in an evening happy hour, and/or sign up for a program or webinar to learn and make new connections. Scroll down for the full list and registration links. 

 Want to take the lead and organize one of your own lunch or happy hours for WIB members and guests? Post your interest and/or meeting idea in Slack in the #networkwithme channel and we can set up a Zoom meeting for you to make that happen. You can also email us at  SouthernCalifornia@WomenInBio.org and/or join Slack for WIB Southern California here. 

Meanwhile, stay home and look out for yourself and your loved ones.  We hope to meet you online. Your ideas and suggestions of how we can support the community at this time are very welcome.  We would love to hear from you. 

Jennie Starr, Chair
WIB-Southern California 


A Little Less Structure. Designed for networking, sharing, connecting. Seeing old friends and making new ones. Open to members and non-members. No fees apply. Registration required. 

5/4/2020 – Happy Hour - Share Your Experiences: How Has Covid19 Impacted your role at work? RSVP  (via Zoom) 6:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.

6/4/2020 - Happy Hour - Leadership – How do you motivate your team, inspire work across functional groups? RSVP (via Zoom) 6:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.



A Little More Structure. Open to members and non-members, fees may apply. Registration required.

April 28, 2020 – MAPS Peer Group Launch – 5th Cohort and breakouts each on: Transitioning from one type of role to a different one, Advancing in a current role and/or climbing the ladder, Job Seeking.  - RSVP   6:00 p.m-7:30 p.m. 

April 30, 2020 – Book Club & Author Discussion - The Perfect Predator, Author Steffanie Strathdee from UCSD - A Scientist's Race to Save Her Husband from a Deadly Superbug: A Memoir - RSVP  7:00-8:30 p.m.

May 8, 2020 - Are you taking advantage of your networking online? Do you feel like your technical skills with Zoom, Slack, and/or Social Link on the WIB National web site may need brushing up? Join us for demonstrations on all three tools and jumpstart your networking online with confidence. RSVP 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m


Don’t forget you can also join in National webinars and webinars offered by other chapters. To see more professional development opportunities and events click here. 

Tags:  2020  A Word From the Chair 

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WIB-Southern California: Rare Disease Part VI: Can We End the Diagnostic Odyssey?, February 20, 2020

Posted By Lamia Merabet, Wednesday, March 4, 2020

On February 20, 2020, the WIB-Southern California chapter held "‘Rare Disease Part VI: Can We End the Diagnostic Odyssey?" at Retrophin’s headquarters in San Diego. It was the sixth event in the series*. At this event,  WIB-Southern California dedicated volunteers welcomed attendees, handing speakers’ bios and encouraging all to engage in targeted and meaningful networking.


Click here for more photos

The event and chapter sponsors (Retrophin and Rho) offered a tasteful catered buffet with Vegan, American, and Asian cuisine paired with fine wines and beverages -a good conversation starter.

The President Chair, Alexa Tralla, introduced Women In Bio at large and delineated the accomplishments of the local chapter: 370 active members; Mentorship, Advisers, Peers, and Sponsorship (MAPS) programs spanning Peer groups, Mentoring circles, and the Executive Round Table. 

Celia Jenkinson, Director Non-Clinical at Retrophin, who is an active WIB-Southern California  member and Mentor, pinpointed the crucial role of the patient advocacy in hearing patients’ experience whose initial diagnostic of their rare disease often involved up to seven consecutive physicians. With the prodigious technology advance of the whole genome sequencing (WGS), the reach for a diagnostic improved.

Daniele Monteleone, Director Business Development at Rho, a WIB-Southern California Chapter’s Sponsor, presented this Clinical Research Organization (CRO), led by a female CEO, whose mission is to care for the patients down the line.

Linda Strause, WIB-Southern California  Advisory Board, Steering Committee and Program Chair introduced the moderator, Dawn Barry, President and Co-founder of Public Benefit Corporation, Luna PBC whose motto is “to turn the patient advocates into activists” brilliantly facilitated the presentation and discussion.

Currently, 350 million people worldwide and six to 10 million in the U.S are diagnosed with a rare disease, among which half are children. Of all rare diseases, 80% have a genetic cause; hence, over 7,000 genetic conditions have been identified. The Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) is the only method available capable of detecting nearly all types of genetic variants; it is not proprietary technology.

The Congressman Perspective

Anthony Nguyen, MA, MHA, District Director for U.S Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52) announced the great initiative of the H.R 4144 bill "Ending the Diagnostic Odyssey Act."

The Rare Disease Focus, an informational group, brought awareness to the congress representative Scott Peters with regard to the emotional stress and financial burden that patients with rare disease endure while seeking a diagnostic. The improvement in whole genome sequencing technologies have rendered an actionable diagnostic more accessible and affordable, yet not leveraged in too many cases.

This bill pleads for providing judicious financial support to the patients with undiagnosed rare disease, allowing them to benefit from a whole genome sequencing and speeding up their diagnostic. This bill, in paying upfront for the cost of the WGS, which is the most robust genetic test available, aims to address the crippling health-economic outcomes in terms of unnecessary tests, hospital stays, and caregivers’ non-working days.

All individuals can be activists, supporting and lobbying for passing this bipartisan, non-political bill to the Senate, before its term in December 2020. They could organize in committees, or reach out individually to members of the Congress in California and other states –through their administered people. They could better advocate for the issue resolution by sharing a compelling story on the impact to families. 

The Genetic Counselors Perspective

Erica Ramos, MS, CGC, VP Population Genomics at Genome Medical Inc. is a 20 year-Genetic Counselor. She shared about her early career’s struggle with the lack of technology, shepherding undiagnosed patients through their painful experience.

She joined Illumina in 2012, which emerged as the first company dedicating a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments-compliant (CLIA) laboratory to focus on the sequencing of the human genome, in a President Genetic Counseling capacity. She also described the disparity across the nation for access to genetic counseling activities, one of the fastest-growing professions in the healthcare arena.

Beyond genome sequencing, a genetic counselor’s expertise is essential in shedding light on the test management: orienting towards the most appropriate test to be performed, based on the patient and the aim; conducting its accurate interpretation; integrating the test results and subsequent diagnostic into the day-to-day healthcare and life management. Moreover, in a research and development endeavor, any progress is salutary for the diagnosed patient and beneficial for many more potential patients. Hence, the conduct of clinical trials for enzyme replacement therapies in the rare disease space is a promising perspective.

Despite these undeniable benefits, patients refrain from consulting genetic counselors because neither Medicare nor Medicaid reimburse for their services –in all but two states. A bill is in motion, the HR 3235  "Action to Genetic Counselors Services Act."

The Physician Perspective

Razelle Kurzrock, M.D., Director, Center of Personalized Cancer therapy, Senior Deputy Center Director for Clinical Science, UCSD Moores Cancer Center started her allocution by expressing her gratitude to Retrophin for their drug that treats cysteneria, a lethal disease that affected her dog several years ago.
She stressed on the fact that we cannot afford not to do genome sequencing, considering the dramatic consequences of some undiagnosed pathologies that lead to brain damage for the patients, with permanent loss and human loss. A patient and her family should be able to insist until finding the qualified and knowledgeable physician who would prescribe the sequencing, leverage the results and positively act.

Her vision on the long-term implications of the WGS spanned from the emergence of a human database of sequencing of a great value –which would enable the discovery of novel therapies– to the prediction of healthcare management trends, within a decade, where a refusal to perform genome sequencing might even be a malpractice.

The Patient and Family Perspective

Gay Grossman, Co-founder of ADCY5.org, a foundation that focuses on ADCY5-related dyskinesia researchers and patient community, is a Mother, a Patient Advocate and an Activist, who came with Lilly, her daughter who just turned 23 and Leslie, her 25-year friend. Gay has tended to her daughter as she was suffering seizure-like tremors at night, while staying conscious, on a daily basis. In the span of her first eight years of life, Lilly has been seeing 35 specialists whose prescribed tests did not reveal any anomaly. Interestingly, this family has never consulted a genetic counselor.

Both parents have creatively organized Lilly’s Home/Occupational and Speech Therapy/School life, even providing supportive software to her instructors. In order to alleviate the nocturnal tremors, a neurologist has provided continuous assistance with a caffeine pill and techniques to manage movements; Lilly was able, like students her age, to live in a college dormitory. Lilly is the first patient to benefit from a diagnostic screening at Scripps, at the age of 15, identifying the ADCY5-related dyskinesia. Since then, 300 patients worldwide with an age range spanning a 1.5-year old child (who benefited from an early diagnosis) to 40 years old, received an accurate diagnosis.

The event was well-attended and attracted patients and their families, in a broad range of challenging diagnosis rare diseases. The audience engaged in an open dialogue with the panel and erred on the data privacy for any genome sequencing financially supported by a government program, on the potential applications to a newborn screening, on the legislation to protect from consequences to contract or maintain an insurance. Answers and references were conducive of a better awareness of the privacy rules and laws protecting of them, including the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

In conclusion, a WIB member suggested reaching out to Congress representatives nationwide (through the 13 WIB Chapters) and to advocate for the H.R 4144 bill ‘Ending the Diagnostic Odyssey Act’.

*This series has been initiated in 2015 and has spanned the following events:
June 2015: ‘Obstacles of Rare Disease Healthcare & the Promise of The Precision Medicine Initiative’ at Barney & Barney
Sep 2016 Part 2: ‘Beyond Rare Disease R&D: Accelerating therapeutic access for patients with rare diseases’ at La Jolla Cove Research Center
Apr 2017 Part 3: ‘Balancing Genetics and Ethics in the Management
of Rare Diseases’ at Illumina
Feb 2018 Part 4: ‘Driving genomic advocacy through this ‘boom’ in consumer information’ at La Jolla Pharmaceutical 
Feb 2019 Part 5: ‘The Broken Wheel: Closing the gap between research data and clinical actionable data: It's essential but it's a burden’ at IQVIA

Event Sponsor: www.retrophin.com
Chapter Sponsor: www.rhoworld.com

Tags:  2020  Past Events 

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WIB-Southern California: Young Women In Bio: The Future of Life Sciences & Tech, February 18, 2020

Posted By Kristina Herbert, Tuesday, February 25, 2020

On February 18, 2020, Young Women In Bio (YWIB) Southern California partnered together with Thermo Fisher Scientific to host “The Future of Life Sciences and Technology” in Carlsbad, California, where Thermo Fisher’s Southern California offices are located. This event stemmed from a Young Women In Bio national initiative to engage young girls in discussions and activities focused on how life sciences and technology are working together to solve health and other life science-related problems and came almost exactly two years after a similar event in New York...

Please click here for the entire recap and additional photos

Tags:  2020  Past Events  YWIB 

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WIB-Southern California: Navigating Change and Broadening Career Horizons, January 22, 2020

Posted By Roberta Alexander, Monday, January 27, 2020
Updated: Sunday, January 26, 2020

The new decade for WIB-Southern California started with a panel discussion with female executives discussing career transitions and opportunities. The event was sponsored by Ferring Pharmaceuticals and was held at their facility in Sorrento Valley. The networking reception was a nice occasion to chat with other WIB members and guests while having wine, appetizers, cheese and crackers, and other snacks.


Click here for more photos.

Kelly Huang, leadership consultant and co-chair of WIB's Boardroom Ready program, moderated the discussion on professional growth, challenges, and opportunities. Panelists were Karen Possemato, VP, Corporate Marketing and Communications at Illumina Inc., Cristina Almeida, VP at Wealth Alliance LLC, and Angela Huskey SVP, Chief Clinical Officer at Millennium Health LLC.


Journey and Lesson Learned

The panelists started by describing their career journeys. They had interesting jobs that they enjoyed however, after several years in their roles, they felt in need of a change. This meant leaving a well-paid job and starting something new, or working for other companies even if this led to a few layoffs and new positions over the years.

Overall, if you want a change, you need to overcome your fears, be willing to take risks, and have the courage to tackle new challenges. Reach out to your network if you are looking for new opportunities or advice, and trust your instincts during an interview.


Challenges and Opportunities

In some cases, it is necessary to plan a course of action, but often opportunities present themselves. Don't be scared of new challenges and take one step at a time. Sometimes also take a step back, slow down, ask yourself if you are happy, and trust your instincts. Think about what is the worst thing that could happen if what you are considering does not work out: you may realize that even the worst thing is not that bad after all. Don't let a fleeting opportunity pass by: if neither you nor your boss know exactly what a possible new role looks like, take it anyway if it sounds interesting, and you will figure out your responsibilities as you go along. This is true also in situations when you do not feel completely ready for a new role. Stay informed of what is happening in your organization. If it is going through changes, do not complain, but look for the opportunity. If you stay the course, there may be new opportunities that can allow you to move into a leadership role that you had not planned.



In general, if your role stays the same for two or three years and you are not happy anymore, it may be time to seek a change. However, changing jobs may not be right for everybody. Think of ways to expand your role to keep things fresh and interesting, and to keep yourself happy.

Tags:  2020  Past Events 

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WIB-Southern California: San Diego Miramar College Biotechnology Program Mock Interview Night, December 9, 2019

Posted By Kristina M Herbert, Monday, January 13, 2020

Young Women In Bio attended San Diego Miramar College Biotechnology Program Mock Interview Night. YWIB volunteers Debra Hammill, who works as a Senior Quality Assurance Associate at Tanvex Biopharma, Kristina Herbert, a Research Assistant Professor and grant writer at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, and Jocelyn Ramirez, an Associate Scientist at The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, as well as other local biotech professionals each conducted mock interviews with four students from the Miramar College Biotechnology Program. Each student was evaluated on their interviewing skills and given feedback on their resume and answers to interview questions. The night ended with general feedback from all interviewing volunteers. Students were encouraged to make the most out of their resumes, highlighting any and all accomplishments. They were told to emphasize their transferable skills as many of them did not have a ton of work experience. Students were encouraged to be prepared with questions about the company when going into an interview and to recognize that they were also interviewing the company to determine if it was a good match for them.

Tags:  2019  Past Events  YWIB 

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