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WIB-San Francisco Bay Area’s Holiday Party: Recapping a Successful Year! December 5, 2017

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Sunday, June 9, 2019

On December 5, 2017, WIB-San Francisco Bay Area celebrated the holidays at Devil’s Canyon Brewing Company in San Carlos. This networking event also recognized the great efforts of this year’s WIB-SF volunteers and leadership. The out-going WIB-SF chapter chair, Michelle Zeman, gave a presentation that highlighted the chapter's achievements and growth as well as goals for 2018. Thanks to everyone who attended, and to all who supported the chapter this year!

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Biotech Entrepreneurship for Girls with YWIB hosted by JLABS, November 7, 2017

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Sunday, June 9, 2019

On November 7, 2017, San Francisco Bay Area YWIB in partnership with Johnson and Johnson Innovation (JLABS) held a unique event focused on introducing high school women to biotech entrepreneurship. Twenty-five high school students from around the Bay Area attended the afternoon event in South San Francisco. Four female biotech startup founders and CEOs presented investment pitches to the audience. Casey Lynch, CEO presented Cortexyme, a preclinical stage therapeutics company developing a novel approach to treating Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Crystal Nyitray, Ph.D, Founder and CEO of Encellin, described her company’s cell encapsulation technology and its first application in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Alicia Scheffer-Wong, Ph.D, Founder and CEO, presented Floragraph, a microbiome diagnostic company initially focused on providing parents with insights into their infant’s developing microbiome. Lastly, Dr. Emma Taylor, MD, CEO of Naked Biome, described her company’s live biologic product to treat acne. Each woman presented her company pitch, including a description of the technological innovation, the unmet medical need addressed by the technology, a development plan, and an ‘ask’ for funding.

The students in the audience were tasked with evaluating each company as if they were investors. In small groups over dinner provided by JLABS, the students discussed and critically evaluated each of the four technologies with the help of YWIB and JLABS mentors. One representative of each group then presented their investment decisions to the larger group. Notably, the pitch decks were the “real” presentations each CEO had previously used for investor meetings, which the attendees appreciated: “I really loved that no one watered down any of the information. They talked to us as they would investors.” Students in attendance reported that the material was “challenging, but in a good way.” Following the small group discussions, the larger group reconvened for a panel discussion on startups and entrepreneurship. (YWIB volunteers had prepared a list of questions and planned to facilitate the panel, but the students had so many questions of their own that we didn’t get to our own list!) Topics included the founders’ educational backgrounds, motivations for starting their companies, and the highs and lows of entrepreneurship. Some of the lessons the students reported learning from the event included: - “How, if you want something done or realized you sometimes need to do it yourself.” - “I learned about all the steps you have to take in order to even begin thinking about a startup. It’s important to have something big that impacts you enough to want to start a company.”  -“I can start a company to address a problem I see.” - “You have to face rejection in order to succeed.”

The JLABS venue was a fantastic place to hold this event. JLABS provides incubator space for nascent biotech startups and access to capital equipment needed for early R&D. Being present in the incubator space gave the girls a visible home and context to the efforts the entrepreneurs are pursuing. The event was a valuable experience for the volunteers, as well. As one of our founders commented, “It was really uplifting to meet these young women and hope to be part of inspiring them. It's always nice to imagine that your story might have value for someone else.” San Francisco YWIB thanks Johnson and Johnson Innovation and JLABS leadership and staff for their sponsorship and the great energy and enthusiasm they poured into this event. We also wish to thank the many workshop volunteers who dedicated their afternoon and evening to help, and our attendees for their engaging participation and feedback.

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WIB-SF Leadership Programs: Building a Community of Biotech Women Leaders from Bench to Boardroom, October 26, 2017

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Sunday, June 9, 2019

On October 26, 2017, WIB-San Francisco Bay Area hosted a panel discussion at DLA Piper in San Francisco featuring active leaders in Women in Bio (WIB) and the Association for Women in Science (AWIS). Emilie Besnard, co-chair of the programming committee, briefly introduced WIB and the different WIB committees in which members can volunteer (programming, sponsorship, communication, membership, and Young Women In Bio (YWIB)). The moderator, Shehnaaz Suliman (M.D., MPhil, M.B.A), who is a Senior Vice President for Corporate Development & Strategy at Theravance Biopharma then shared her career path and highlighted the importance of staying open to new opportunities, as showcased by her journey from medical school, to Wall Street, and ultimately to M&A and corporate strategy.

After the introductory session, each panelist, Susan Bernhard (AWIS mentor), Deborah Ovadia (WIB - MAPs), Jaya (Yalia) Jayalakshmi (YWIB / WIB - LDL), and Yasmin Chandrasekher (EWIB / WIB - MAPs), presented her perspective on how different programs in both organizations are structured and what they offer participants. First, the panelists discussed the opportunities women in the Bay Area must participate in mentoring and leadership programs with WIB and AWIS. Susan Bernhard presented AWIS and the framework provided for their mentoring program, for which she has been volunteering for many years. Deborah Ovadia discussed the WIB Mentors-Advisors-Peers Program (MAPs) that offers peer-to-peer mentoring groups for women at all career levels as well as one-on-one mentoring (pairing a mentee with a more experienced mentor). All panelists agreed that everyone needs mentors at every stage of their career, and that mentoring is a two-way relationship and should be a win-win situation, where the mentees guide the mentors to get the help they need.

Next, Jaya (Yalia) Jayalakshmi presented the YWIB program that aims to expose girls to the life sciences and the business of science. Jaya also introduced a new WIB program, Leaders Developing Leaders (LDL), that is now in a pilot version where small group dinners are organized with one senior woman who participated as a panelist or moderator in a past event and a few chapter committee leaders. This program is structured to give back to committee leaders and bring the panelists and moderators into the WIB community. Finally, Yasmin Chandrasekhar presented the Boardroom Ready Program from Executive WIB (EWIB) that started 2 years ago. This program is offered to 20 women who are selected through a rigorous application process. These women complete a two-and-a-half-day program and are rewarded a Boardroom Ready Certificate upon graduation. EWIB is working on expanding this program and building a national community of boardroom women. Throughout the event, the moderator and panelists left time for the audience to ask questions, participate, and share their own experience with WIB, AWIS, or their career path. Women scientists from every level, from graduate student, to bench scientist, to Senior VP, as well as lawyers attended this event. Thanks to all of you - event attendees, members, and volunteers - for helping WIB build an empowering community of women in the life sciences. Importantly, WIB is here to set up and continue beneficial mentoring partnerships to support the career advancement of women in our community. WIB members, do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about our mentoring programs! Many thanks to all the attendees, the panelists, Shehnaaz Suliman for steering the discussion, the event sponsor, DLA Piper, for hosting us, and the event Co-Chairs Emilie Besnard and Meej Kim for putting this event together!

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WIB-San Francisco Bay Area: “Digital Health: Redefining Healthcare,” September 28, 2017

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Sunday, June 9, 2019

On September 28, 2017, WIB-San Francisco Bay Area hosted a panel discussion at Foley and Lardner, Palo Alto featuring four panelists and a moderator from companies leading in diverse areas of Digital health.

Moderator Michelle Zeman, Clinical Genomics Scientist at Invitae, started the discussion where each panelist--Deborah Kilpatrick (CEO, Evidation Health), Ida Shum (Senior Manager, Business Development at Samsung), Ruchita Sinha (Senior Director Investments, Sanofi Ventures) and Lucia Soares (VP, Healthcare Technology Programs and Delivery, J&J)--presented her perspective on what digital health encompasses in the context of her current role. The panelists highlighted key areas where digital health companies face significant hurdles and, therefore, potentially presenting opportunities for disruption. The relative infancy of the field of digital health presents unique challenges regarding a lack of established business models as well as a paucity of well-defined regulatory and approval guidelines.

Dr. Kilpatrick mentioned that the field is witnessing a cultural shift away from expecting consumers to pay for a service or device. From an investor’s standpoint, Ruchita Sinha mentioned that developing a new technology or application in the field of digital health is not about making a “shiny toy” anymore; instead, a product’s value is assessed by its ability to generate a tangible return of investment. Ida Shum emphasized the value in pairing wearable data with additional behavioral and health information, allowing the synthesis of meaningful connections which results in improved health outcomes for patients.

There is enormous potential for the digital health industry to revolutionize “over-the-counter” space and prevent hospital re-admissions by using patient’s health and behavioral data. Big data availability, however, presents its own unique challenges regarding data gathering, storage, access, and concerns over security and privacy issues, mentioned Lucia Soares. Potential employment opportunities require specific skill sets that include--but are not limited to--data mining, deep learning, artificial intelligence, and experience handling large data sets.

Attendees agreed that the insights provided by our expert panelists were thought provoking and resulted in meaningful discussions during and after the Q&A session. Many thanks to all the attendees, Michelle Zeman for steering the discussion, and the event sponsor, Foley and Lardner, LLP, for hosting us!

 

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WIB-San Francisco Bay Area YWIB: "STEM CELLS… All the Cool Kids are Discovering Them!" September 12, 2017

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Sunday, June 9, 2019

On September 12, 2017, Young Women In Bio hosted an event called "STEM CELLS… All the cool kids are discovering them!" at the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) in Oakland, CA. The goal of the event was to educate young students about stem cell research and careers in science. 20 high school aged girls attended representing 11 different high schools across the Bay Area. The event kicked off with welcome remarks from CIRM’s Chairman of the Board, Dr. Jonathan Thomas and President and CEO, Dr. Maria Millan.

Dr. Thomas spoke about the exciting potential the field of regenerative medicine holds and the interesting career opportunities it offers to young students. Dr. Millan shared her experience as a transplant surgeon and clinical trial management. She focused on the important role of keeping the patients first in this field and shared stories of patients who have had their diseases cured after participating in CIRM-funded clinical trials.

After welcoming remarks, the program started with a presentation by Website & Social Media Manager, Dr. Karen Ring, who shared CIRM’s purpose to fund promising stem cell research in California and its mission to accelerate stem cell treatments to patients with unmet medical needs. Dr. Ring also shared her passion for her other role as the Program Director for a CIRM funded high school internship program called SPARK. This summer program is a hands-on experience where students learn about stem cells and regenerative medicine and conduct a six-week research internship in a stem cell lab. Many girls in attendance were very interested in applying to one the local Bay Area SPARK programs.

Next, Senior Science Officer, Dr. Kelly Shepard gave a talk on the fundamentals of stem cells. She focused on the different types of stem cells, where to find them in the body, how to use them to model disease and develop therapies, and what makes them unique. She then focused on a particular stem cell-based therapy for patients with type I diabetes, which is currently being tested in a CIRM funded clinical trial. Throughout the presentation the girls and the YWIB volunteers had many questions for Dr. Shepard on how stem cells work and where the research field is heading.

The event was rounded off with pizza provided by Global Blood Therapeutics and a career panel featuring three CIRM team members including Senior Science Officer(s), Lila Collins and Lisa Kadyk, and Grants Management Specialist Michele Carter. YWIB volunteer and CIRM Grants Management Specialist Jennifer Mielnicki led the panel in a discussion of each of the staff’s careers in science - from where they went to college to why they pursued a career in science. The panelists told personal stories of why they were drawn to the sciences. Then the discussion focused on each of the women’s roles at CIRM and what they do each day to advance the agency’s mission to help patients.

The students provided feedback from the event and said they enjoyed learning about the potential applications of stem cell research and the current impact of stem cell therapies. Many highlighted the positive of experience of engaging first hand with women in the field of science and learning about their different career paths. Overall, the students reported that the program gave them an opportunity to ask specific questions of science professionals, and that they can see how important regenerative medicine is and will be in the future for developing new therapies. Here are some of their lesson learned:

 • “There are many different ways to be a scientist, and you don’t have to always conform to the most common path.”

• “How many scenarios stem cells can be used to cure? It’s like it’s a canvas for an artist’s creativity to create solutions left and right.”

• “That I’m interested in stem cells and the research being conduction – it’s a growing field and it’s fascinating!”

YWIB-San Francisco Bay Area is thankful to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine for welcoming these girls and sharing their knowledge and experiences. This event was inspiring for the students but also for the parents and volunteers in attendance to learn the potential of regenerative medicine.

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WIB-San Francisco Bay Area: Translational Research Panel Discussion at Nektar Therapeutics, August 9, 2017

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Sunday, June 9, 2019

On August 9, 2017, WIB-San Francisco Bay Area hosted a panel discussion at Nektar Therapeutics in San Francisco, featuring four panelists and a moderator - all leaders in the field of Translational Research (TR).

After an introduction to Women In Bio by the Event Chair, Dorian Hirth, V.P. of Human Resources at Nektar welcomed the audience. The event was moderated by Maureen Cronin who recently retired from Celgene after a long, successful and dynamic career in TR. The panelists themselves were leaders in TR in varied therapeutic areas: Nancy Pryer from BioMarin is a leader, mentor, and currently involved with Rare Diseases. Oranee Daniels from Antiva, cares deeply for the causes of women and is presently working with anti-infectives. Victoria Sung and Ellen Filvaroff are brilliant scientists at Celgene and involved in various aspects of TR in Oncology. Each of these distinguished women came to TR in her own unique way. 

Maureen asked the panel thought provoking questions. Discussion began by giving the audience an understanding of TR, which is not just bench-to-bedside but also returning back from bedside-to-bench. The area of TR has found solid roots in the era of big data. Understanding the mechanism of action of the drug and its effect on the patient (i.e., biomarker) are two big parts of TR. Being collaborative, adaptable, curious, interested in new technologies, and passionate were some of the character traits for success discussed by the panelists.

The audience was very engaged and there was a lively Q&A session after the discussion. Additionally attendees had the opportunity to chat with the panelists after the event.
The Women In Bio SF Chapter would like to thank Nektar Therapeutics for hosting the event in their wonderful facility. Food and wine at the beginning of the event was much enjoyed by the participants. Thank you to all participants, and a special thanks to the event Co-Chairs Vidula Dixit-Duarte and Audrey O’Neill for putting this event together!

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WIB-San Francisco Bay Area: "Breakthrough Discoveries in Aging Research," May 2, 2017

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Friday, June 7, 2019

On May 2, 2017, WIB-San Francisco Bay Area hosted a panel discussion at Calico that featured three panelists and a moderator representing academia and industry - all leaders in the field of aging and age-related diseases research.

The evening started with mingling and food. Presentations began with an introduction to the field from the panel moderator, Dr. Danica Chen (UC Berkeley). Dr. Rochelle Buffenstein (Calico), Dr. Dena Dubal (UCSF), and Dr. Rachel Brem (Buck Institute for Research on Aging) presented their exciting research:

Dr. Buffenstein discussed the naked mole-rat as a fascinating long-lived animal--and experimental model of extended longevity--as well as the importance of utilizing different animal models with longer life-spans and greater adaptability to stress.
Dr Dubal gave a provocative talk highlighting how genetic sex influences fundamental biology: having two X chromosomes contributes to longer life span and brain resilience.
Dr Brem described cutting-edge methods for studying genetic changes that have enabled organisms’ adaptive benefits during evolutionary history.

These presentations were followed by lively discussion on the current state of aging research. After the panel, panelists and attendees continued their dialogue by gathering for informal discussions of aging research and career paths. Attendees agreed that aging research is a very hot topic of public interest which should be discussed annually to continually update our understanding of advances in this rapidly evolving field.

Many thanks to the event sponsor, Calico, for a beautiful evening; to the panel moderator for her thorough preparation; to the panelists for their time and input; and to the volunteers and sponsors of Women In Bio. Thank you to all participants, and a special thanks to Neesha Parikh and Matt Valentino!

 

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WIB-San Francisco Bay Area: “Hot Trends in Personalized Medicine,” April 27, 2017

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Friday, June 7, 2019

On April 27th 2017, WIB-San Francisco Bay Area hosted a panel discussion at Illumina's downtown San Francisco office that featured four panelists and a moderator from companies representing "Hot Trends" in personalized medicine.

Moderator Amy Swanson (Illumina) led a lively and informative discussion on current trends in personalized medicine, including the generation and management of large genomics data sets, and various ways genomic data can be efficiently interpreted and applied to treat and prevent disease.

Jackie Benson (J&J Innovations), Pam Garzone (Pfizer), Tara Maddala (Grail), and Kristin McDonald Gibson (Invitae) provided insightful perspectives that represented different facets of personalized medicine including targeted therapeutics, immunology, liquid biopsy, and genetic testing. The panelists’ insights and shared experiences resulted in a thought-provoking discussion by the attendees afterwards.

Thanks to everyone who attended this great event, and special thanks to Illumina for hosting us!

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WIB-San Francisco Bay Area: Leveraging Partnerships in the Growing Immuno-Oncology Space, March 16, 2017

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Friday, June 7, 2019

On March 16, 2017, women and men from industry and academia gathered at JLABS to learn from experts about the value and challenges of partnerships in immuno-oncology (I-O).

Panel Moderator, Stacy Feld, Vice President of Consumer Venture Investments and External Innovation at Johnson & Johnson Innovation-JJDC, began the evening with an introduction to the growing field: I-O-focused drugs are rapidly becoming the standard of treatment for many cancers, and hundreds of I-O treatments are being evaluated in clinical trials. The opportunities for partnership are myriad, with I-O accounting for more than half of the deals involving private companies.

Next, the panelists, Julie Hambleton, VP and Head of US Medical at Bristol-Myers Squibb; Jane Grogan, Head of Adaptive Tumor Immunity and Principal Scientist in Cancer Immunology Discovery Research at Genentech; and Sylvaine Cases, VP of Oncology Scientific Innovation for Janssen Research & Development and the J&J California Innovation Center, addressed questions about the overall I-O landscape, strategies that small companies and academics can take when approaching a potential partner, and challenges in the field. Dr. Hambleton discussed the challenges of enrolling patients in a competitive environment, along with the need for global trials; and Dr. Grogan also mentioned the possibility of pooling and sharing data among companies. All of the panelists had tips for smaller companies trying to pitch their data; in particular, Dr. Cases noted that, “you need to know what pain point you address – what is this potential partner missing that you can provide?”

As part of the Women’s History Month theme, “Taking Charge of Your Career,” the panelists shared some of their career experiences - all agreeing that the path to success is a winding one. Common themes that emerged were being open to opportunity and having a flexible mindset, being driven by curiosity and a search for the best science, and being bold enough to ask your own questions.

Before and after the panel, panelists and attendees gathered for informal discussions of partnerships and their own career strategies.

Many thanks to the event sponsor, JLABS, for a beautiful evening, to Stacy Feld for her thorough preparation and insightful questions, to all the panelists for their time and input, and to the volunteers and sponsors of Women In Bio. The attendees agreed that this was a stand-out panel discussion, perhaps among the best on this topic.

 

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WIB-San Francisco Bay Area: "Changing Tides: Forecasting the Outlook for Biotech in 2017," January 12, 2017

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Friday, June 7, 2019

Changing Tides: Forecasting the Outlook for Biotech in 2017 at the JP Morgan Conference

On January 12, 2017, WIB-San Francisco Bay Area kicked off 2017 with a bang by hosting a half-day event with Bloomberg Intelligence at the close of the JP Morgan Conference. The day started with a breakfast that allowed Women In Bio members from across the country to meet and mingle over delicious food.

The remainder of the event featured two panels: the first, on early-stage investing and fundraising in biotech, was hosted by Caroline Chen (Bloomberg News), and featured panelists Melinda Richter (Head of JLABS, Johnson & Johnson Innovation), Racquel Bracken (VP, Venrock), Christina Tsai (CSO, EpiBiome), and Gail Gannon (Managing Director, Mavericks Capital).

The second panel, which focused on the outlook for market trends in biotech and pharma for 2017, was hosted by Asthika Goonewardene (Bloomberg Intelligence) and included insights from Katja Lange (VP, JP Morgan), Yi Larson (VP, Goldman Sachs), Christiana Bardon (Portfolio Manager, Burrage Capital), Carol Gallagher (Partner, New Enterprise Associates), and Gisela Schwab (CMO, Exelixis).

Between the panels, Robin Washington (CFO, Gilead Sciences) held a fireside chat to discuss her career, and highlight the importance of seizing opportunities and stepping outside of your comfort zone.

The event wrapped up with a luncheon and lively discussion among the attendees. WIB-San Francisco Bay Area received glowing reviews about this gathering from speakers and attendees alike, who found it  to be a great opportunity to network and discuss the forces that will shape biotech and pharma in 2017.

 

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