Liftstream, a U.K.-based executive recruiting firm, released an oft referenced report called “A Public Reality for Women in Biotech Boardrooms” in 2016. Lifstream’s research found that only 7 to 9 percent of biotech CEOs were women, less than 11 percent of board seats were held by females and 98 percent of board chair positions were held by men. The report surveyed 177 publicly-listed biotechs that went through the IPO process from 2012 to 2015.
Since 2016, women have certainly made significant strides in the biopharmaceutical space, including two recent, high profile CEO appointments. Gilead Sciences recently appointed Christi L. Shaw, former senior vice president at Eli Lilly & Company, as CEO of Kite, which is the company’s division focused on CAR T therapy development. In addition, Vertex Pharmaceuticals has named its vice president and Chief Medical Officer Reshma Kewalramani as president and CEO, effective April 1, 2020.
These recent success stories illustrate that women executives holding executive positions at life science companies is on the rise. However, progress has been challenging and, by most accounts, slow. Emma Walmsey, CEO at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), remains the only women CEO leading a top-tier biopharm company.
Achieving stronger gender diversity in the leadership ranks and in the boardroom is an ongoing challenge that is being met head on by intrepid, driven, innovative and successful women across the life science industry. The issue is also being addressed upstream at Venture Capital Firms like TEDCO who are taking efforts to support more female founders and startups with the launch of a Task Force For Women Entrepreneurs.
There are several highly accomplished CEOs and executive leaders that have built extraordinary biohealth companies right here in the Biohealth Capital Region (BHCR), who also happen to be women. Their accomplishments, highlighted against the backdrop of this industry-wide issue, are setting the standard for excellence and further emphasize the importance of continued efforts towards gender diversity within life science leadership roles.
Rachel K. King, Co-Founder and CEO, GlycoMimetics, Inc.
Rachel K. King co-founded GlycoMimetics, Inc.(GMI) in 2003 and has served as the company’s CEO since its inception. GMI is an oncology-focused biotech company that King led through the IPO process in 2013 and 2014.
Under King’s leadership, GlycoMimetics went public, secured an exclusive global licensing agreement with Pfizer and was instrumental in raising significant amounts of capital for the company. A graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Business School, King has had a storied career in both biopharma and finance. Prior to becoming CEO of GMI, King served as an Executive in Residence for New Enterprise Associates (NEA), one of the leading venture capital firms in the U.S. She has also held the position of Senior Vice President of Novartis-Corporation. King joined Novartis after a remarkable ten year run with Genetic Therapy, Inc. where she was named CEO after helping Genetic Therapy navigate the organization through various growth stages, including the company’s sale to Novartis. King was named the Maryland Tech Councils Executive of the Year in 2013 , the Top 10 Women in Biotech by FierceBio, and has served on multiple boards across her career, including the only woman Chair of Biotechnology Innovation Association’s (BIO) (2013-14), where she still holds an active role on BIO’s Executive Committee.
GlycoMimetics’ drug candidate, uproleselan, has received Breakthrough Therapy Designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and has been evaluated as a treatment for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) in Phase I/II clinical trials. This promising drug candidate is being tested across a wide array of patient populations, including a Phase III trial in relapsed/refractory AML. GMI has also completed a Phase I trial with GMI-1359, a combined CXCR4 and E-selectin antagonist.
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