San Diego Startup Week: Women in Biotech

San Diego Startup Week: Women in Biotech

Athena San Diego led the discussion surrounding women in biotechnology during recent Start Up Week programming. The panel represented a diverse group of experiences and was comprised of four local women CEOs: Magda Marquet, Stephanie Hsieh, Lori Yang, and Claire Weston, with moderation by Athena Executive Director Cheryl Goodman

Magda Marquet, of Althea, encourages any woman leader in biotech to become an Athena member. In a San Diego Startup Week panel, she said that joining Athena––for its resources and access to mentors––was one of her keys to success. And the other women on the panel enthusiastically agreed.

For executive women in the technology and business communities, Athena is the premier organization in San Diego. Its programs and opportunities for growth fit right in with Startup Week’s mission to “[bring] together entrepreneurs to share progress, exchange resources, and celebrate the thriving innovation community.”

Marquet, a key contributor to the local biotech industry and to science, was in the company of other local biotech heavyweights last Tuesday in the Pendry Ballroom. The purpose of this discussion was to share insights for success as leaders in biotech business. Athena Executive Director Cheryl Goodman hosted a panel of women in leadership positions of San Diego biotech companies.

 "We're not talking about women as leaders, we're talking about leaders," said Goodman as she introduced the panel. "On their own merits, independent of gender."

Stephanie Hsieh, President & CEO of Meditope, is just 4 years into this chapter of her successful career, working to cure cancer. She shared that being consistent and authentic have been her guiding principles in her business journey.

"You've got a lot of opinionated people telling you 'Do this. Say this this way,'" said Hsieh. "But taking it all in for yourself, digesting it for yourself," has been her approach.

Lori Yang, Co-Founder & CSO of Lectenz Bio came from an academic background but has been in the business side of biotech for 9 years. Yang's advice was to not be afraid to dive in and to embrace learning along the way.

"Don't let yourself get in the way of yourself," she said.

Similarly, Claire Weston, Founder & CEO of Reveal Biosciences encouraged attendees to get out and talk to people, and to be open to opportunities when they come up. Weston has been in the business of "automating the pathologist" for 5 years.

Marquet agreed that authenticity, learning and talking to people should be guiding principles.

Goodman asked the panel, as "titans and leaders" in biotech and life science, where the big opportunities are in their field at the moment. Several agreed that genomics and CRISPR genome editing were exciting areas to be involved with right now. For Hsieh, she said Immuno-Oncology (IO) is what everyone is buzzing about. Also, in biologics, she said, there are "new discoveries every day."

Weston mentioned that with all of the new discoveries and the faster pace at which companies in this industry can work, the next question is, "What do you do with this data?"

The women also discussed how gender has played into their journey leading in biotech. Several of the panelists believe that the lack of representation of women in biotech industries is due to low retention rate in leadership roles. They believe this is due to career breaks––such as for raising children––and the challenge to jump back in afterwards.

"Realize that people are human," shared Weston. "Develop your business in a way that lets people do what they need to with their life as well as their work. That pays you back in a lot more ways than you think."

Each panelist has encountered hurdles in their career, such as pushing through the first round of funding or knowing when to pivot and when to stay focused. For example, Marquet said that when she started with Althea, the business plan they started with was much different than the one they ended up with.

"We had to change strategies so many times," she shared. "You cannot be discouraged. You have to continue to remind yourself of the vision and why you are an entrepreneur."



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