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Promoting diversity in the pharma industry: 10 female pharma rising stars

Published on 27/11/15 at 04:54pm
Credit: Dell

While some parts of the pharma industry can be dominated by men there are plenty of women making waves in the industry; here are just 10.

Denise Scots-Knight, chief executive and co-founder, Mereo BioPharma,

Scots-Knight co-founded UK-based Mereo in March 2015, and the start-up quickly earned £76.5 million in investment. It used the cash to purchase three innovative clinical-stage development programmes from Novartis – which took an undisclosed stake in Mereo.

The programmes are developing a monoclonal antibody to improve bone density in brittle bone disease patients, a kinase inhibitor against chronic pulmonary obstructive disease (COPD), and an aromatase inhibitor for the treatment of obese men. In July, Mereo partnered with clinical development services provider ICON to help conduct clinical trials and develop its portfolio, and is proving itself one-to-watch.

Charlotte Hardy, medicinal chemistry investigator in respiratory therapy area, GSK,

Hardy has worked at GSK since 2001, and this year was recognised for her significant contribution to the delivery of several clinical candidates within the company’s respiratory portfolio: in Huntingdon's disease, asthma, allergic rhinitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Her work won her the Royal Society of Chemistry’s young industrialist of the year award.

Jeanne Bolger, vice president, venture investments, Johnson & Johnson Innovation

Bolger received her medical degree from University College Dublin and holds diplomas in child health and finance and accounting. She joined J&J in 2005 from GSK’s business development group, serving as global head of scientific licensing for Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical business.

In 2009, Bolger became vice president of alliance management at Janssen Alzheimer's immunotherapy, working with Pfizer and Elan. With over 25 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical industry, Dr Bolger is responsible in her current role for investing and managing portfolio investments in pharmaceutical and biotechnology in Europe, in areas of strategic interest to J&J.

Karen Linehan, executive vice president, legal affairs and general counsel, Sanofi

Linehan has served Sanofi for nearly a quarter of a century, having joined the company in 1991 as assistant general counsel of its US subsidiary. Prior to this, she was law an associate at a law firm. Linehan rose through Sanofi’s ranks in the legal department, and has held her current position since 2007. She is now a member of Sanofi’s executive committee and global leadership team.

Susan Galbraith, senior vice president and head of oncology innovative medicines, AstraZeneca

Galbraith studied medicine at the universities of Manchester and Cambridge and trained as a clinical oncologist. She has 20 years’ academic and industry experience and in her current role at AZ, taking responsibility for oncology discovery from early development to proof of concept.

In addition to this role, she has a position on Horizon Discovery’s board as a non-executive director. Galbraith describes combination immuno-oncology treatments as “the future of the oncology pipeline.”

Pascale Witz, executive vice president, global divisions and strategic development, Sanofi

Sanofi poached life sciences and molecular biology graduate Witz from her role as president and chief executive officer of medical diagnostics at GE Healthcare in 2013, as the company split its commercial operations into two units. She was tasked by the French firm’s former chief executive, Peter Viehbacher, with setting strategic direction and guiding product development of the group's key businesses.

Witz takes direct responsibility for the diabetes, oncology and pharmaceutical customer services divisions, in addition to a new consumer healthcare department.

Cindy Whitehead, co-founder and chief executive, Sprout Pharma

Whitehead founded Sprout with her husband Bob, who she succeeded as chief executive in January 2015. Under Whitehead’s leadership, Sprout was able to revive Addyi (flibanserin) – a drug that Boehringer and regulators had given up on in 2010 – and obtain US approval for the female libido drug in September, despite questions about its efficacy and safety concerns. Shortly after, Valeant bought the company for $1 billion. Whitehead has 22 years’ experience in healthcare, including roles at Merck & Co, Dura Pharmaceuticals and Elan Pharmaceuticals.

Fiona Marshall, co-founder, director and chief scientific officer, Heptares; executive vice president and chief scientific officer, Sosei Group

Marshall co-founded Heptares Therapeutics in 2007 – an innovative company developing treatments targeting G protein-coupled receptors for the treatment of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, ADHD and migraine.

Heptares was bought out by Japanese biopharmaceutical company Sosei in 2015 in a deal worth up to $400 million, and with her company now a full subsidiary of Sosei, Marshall took the position of executive vice president and chief scientific officer at the Japanese company. In addition, Marshall has a place on the board of trustees for the research charity Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Freda Lewis-Hall, chief medical officer and executive vice president, Pfizer,

Lewis-Hall describes herself as from a poor family who ‘didn’t flinch’ when she told them she wanted to be a doctor. Her first pharma job was in 1994 with Eli Lilly as a director at the company’s Centre for Women’s Health, where she remained until 2002. She later had roles at Pharmacia and as senior vice president at Bristol-Myers Squibb. Lewis Hall says she would have found it hard to say no when Pfizer chief executive Ian Read reached out to her in 2009.

In her current role, she leads Pfizer Medical, the division of the company responsible for the safe, effective and appropriate use of Pfizer medicines and vaccines around the world.

Heather Bresch, chief executive officer and executive director, Mylan

Heather Bresch has raised Mylan’s profile considerably over the course of her tenure. On taking the job she said she wishes to be remembered as someone who “challenged the status quo and who was willing to take a stand for what’s right, not what’s easy.”

Since she took the top job in January 2012, Mylan’s stock price has more than doubled and the company has successfully fought off takeover efforts from Teva – with Bresch stating her desire for Mylan to remain independent at all costs. That hasn’t stopped her pursuing other companies though, and she said in the summer that getting a deal done for Perrigo was a top priority.

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