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WIB-San Francisco: “Practice Your Networking Skills” – YWIB event at Wallenberg High School in San Francisco, February 20, 2018

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Monday, May 27, 2019

On February 20, 2018, Wallenberg High School and members of the WIB-San Francisco Young Women In Bio committee co-hosted the event “Practice Your Networking Skills!” for high school and community college students studying in the San Francisco Bay Area. The students directly interacted with women from various bioscience organizations. First, students heard about the diverse roles that the professional women hold. Then, in small groups, they asked questions and discussed their own skills, interests, and goals with the professionals. The students enjoyed the opportunity to practice networking in an encouraging and friendly setting.

WIB-San Francisco YWIB committee member Karla Lindquist and facilitators from the San Francisco Unified School District, City College of San Francisco, and the California Life Sciences Institute kick-started the evening with introductions. Then, 12 networking mentors, who are professionals involved in the local biotech industry, gave “Elevator Pitches”. These demonstrated how to introduce yourself when networking or being interviewed. The Elevator Pitches included a description of each individual’s current role, place of work, what they enjoy most about their work, what they hope to contribute to science, and why it matters.

After hearing the example pitches, students were given the opportunity to develop their own elevator pitches using a form with blanks for them to fill in. They were then given six consecutive opportunities to deliver their pitches at tables, each with two mentors and 3-4 students. The professionals stayed put, at their tables, and the students rotated around in groups. This allowed the students to get advice and feedback from each of the mentors. Mentors reported a marked improvement in the students pitches by the sixth rotation!

The event concluded with a pizza dinner and informal networking session where students continued conversations with the mentors and their peers. There were 17 students from local high schools and 3 from a community college. The feedback from students was overwhelmingly positive. One student observed: “Women from all different backgrounds can really make a difference”. Another student was excited about “Learning about all the possibilities in the biotech field”. 

One volunteer, Lucia Mokres, a Biotechnology Entrepreneurial Consultant, concluded that “students learned how to craft an introduction that will inspire anyone they approach to engage with them in a meaningful way”. Another volunteer, Chancy Fessler, a Senior Research Associate at Nektar Therapeutics, observed that “students asked questions that related directly to what they were interested in and received real-world applicable feedback.” Overall, the professional mentors reported that, as one put it, the “experience was wonderful and very rewarding”.

Photos by: Jennielyn Dino Rossi and Stephany Reeves


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WIB-San Francisco YWIB: “Dancing with the Flu” - The Science Behind Antibody Discovery and Production, February 6, 2018

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Monday, May 27, 2019

On February 6, 2018, Genentech hosted an event called “Dancing with the Flu” for 36 middle and high school girls from the San Francisco Bay Area at their headquarters in South San Francisco, CA. This event was meant to inspire girls to pursue careers in science, expose them to a spectrum of careers in biology, and introduce them to Genentech’s mission to create an antibody to neutralize the flu. This event featured a hands-on activity that put into perspective how antibodies work, followed by tours of the pilot purification plant and Genentech campus, and concluded with talks and a Q&A session with a panel of professional women at all levels of their careers.

Following introductions to the Young Women In Biology (YWIB) program and Genentech, the event began with an interactive activity where the girls learned about the mechanisms by which antibody specificity works, how scientists have engineered dual-specific antibodies, and how pathogens can mutate and alter their antigens. Volunteers raised their arms in Y-formation to act as the arms of antibodies; wore different colored gloves to represent Fab regions, or specific areas on antibodies where antigens bind; and grabbed balloons of matching color to mimic the specificity of antigen binding. After this activity, the girls watched a video put together by Genentech that highlighted how the flu works, the current state of flu treatment, and how scientists are working together to create a universal antibody to neutralize the flu. They learned that communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration are essential to finding effective solutions to real-world problems.

The night ended with a panel of Genentech women who shared their journeys and how they use their own perspectives and skill sets every day in their careers. The panelists emphasized the importance of being open-minded in exploring your interests, and the beauty of finding applications for your passions. A common theme that arose from the conversations was that keeping curious and following what excites you ultimately yields the most fruitful experiences. All of the panelists came from a broad range of different backgrounds, but were each able to find a way to apply their unique skill sets to science in their own ways. The girls were encouraged to persevere and pursue their dreams regardless of what others say. One panelist shared how she had felt discouraged growing up because ‘girls weren’t supposed to be good at math and science,’ stressing to the girls to make it their own decisions to dis-cover what they’re good at and who they’re supposed to be.

To learn more about Genentech’s goal to neutralize all known strains of the flu, click here.

Written by: Jennifer Kim

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WIB-San Francisco, Market Trends in Biotech at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, January 10, 2018

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Sunday, May 26, 2019

Text was adapted from the BioWorld Article titled “Women have their say as all-female panel talks investment, technology” by Marie Powers.

 Women In Bio and Bloomberg Intelligence hosted the second annual “Market Trends in Biotech” event with an all-female panel of investors and industry executives on January 10, 2018 during the 36th JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.

 Asthika Goonewardene (Senior Biotech Analyst, Bloomberg Intelligence) moderated a discussion on capital markets, biopharma R&D, and drug pricing. The panel featured Christiana Bardon (Partner, MPM Oncology Impact Fund and Portfolio Manager, Burrage Capital), Gisela Schwab (CMO, Exelixis), Marianne De Backer (VP, Venture Investments, Johnson & Johnson Innovation), and Shehnaaz Suliman (SVP, Corporate Development and Strategy, Theravance Biopharma).

 Bardon kicked off the discussion stating that investor interest in biopharma improved in 2017 following a challenging 2016, and will likely continue into 2018. She advised against getting preoccupied with the market and suggested that biopharma companies focus on the fundamentals in the coming year by innovating, leveraging the favorable regulatory environment, and executing in clinical development.

 In oncology, investors are incredibly excited about the notable patient responses observed and are eagerly awaiting upcoming readouts. Schwab remarked how exciting it is that the science is finally catching up with observations that were made in the early days of immuno-oncology. Investigators are also beginning to understand how anti-cancer compounds can work together synergistically, and how mainstream use of companion diagnostics can identify more patients who benefit from treatments.

 A potential disconnect, however, is that diagnostics remain a tough place to invest and make money. Nevertheless, the diagnostics space continues to attract investment, De Backer said, and the convergence of health care and information technology is attracting new and sometimes non-traditional investors.

 The conversation came to a close with a discussion about drug pricing. Some panelists noted that as long as biopharma companies are developing drugs that provide value to patients, there will always be a market. Suliman, however, admitted to feeling conflicted, acknowledging that the internal rate of return for biopharma is headed below the cost of capital while value-based pricing is in the public good. She noted that industry officials must do a better job of explaining value-based pricing so that patients can understand the criteria that underlie the prices they pay.

 Next, Kristine Mechem (VP, Marketing and Planning, OncoCyte Corporation) led a fireside chat with Sophie Kornowski-Bonnet (Head of Business Development, Roche) in which Kornowski-Bonnet shared some insights for female executives. She encouraged attendees to focus on their jobs rather than their careers, and to prioritize making friends along the way. Kornowski-Bonnet concluded by emphasizing the importance of being a whole person and finding your style, which she remarked might not help you “make it” at work, but it will make you a happier person.

 Many thanks to all of the panelists, to Bloomberg Intelligence for co-sponsoring the event, to Asthika Goonewardene for steering the discussion and for hosting us at Bloomberg, and to event chairs Nicki Schirle Oakdale and Caitlin Quigley for putting the event together!


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