Celebrating NC Life Sciences’ Leading Women for International Women’s Day
Today marks International Women’s Day: a day devoted to celebrating women, their achievements and recognizing the bias that holds many back.
Women in the Workplace 2020, a national report conducted by McKinsey & Company, found that women account for more than half of entry-level positions in pharmaceuticals and medical products, yet fizzle out to a mere quarter of C-suite positions. The proportions are even more stark for the healthcare systems and services industry; women hold a majority 75% of entry-level positions, but only 29% of C-suite roles. COVID-19 aggravated the corporate pipeline more. Women—especially women of color—were more likely to be laid off or furloughed.
The North Carolina life sciences community owes many successes to the women who devote their talents to public health. Kizzmekia "Kizzy" Corbett, 35, a native of Hurlde Mills who grew up in Hillsborough, came to the fore in the past year. She led the coronavirus team at the Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health to produce the Moderna mRNA Vaccine. In December, the vaccine earned emergency use authorization, marking a pivot point in the pandemic, and giving newfound hope to many.
Corbett proved talented at a young age by spending her summers at research laboratories through the American Chemical Society program Project SEED. Years later, Corbett went on to study human antibody responses to dengue virus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill under Aravinda de Silva, Ph.D.
After Corbett received her doctorate at UNC, the NIH took her in as a research fellow working as a viral immunologist. Corbett’s impact goes beyond the vaccine; she actively engages with the Black community to resolve distrust in vaccines. According to a study released by the NAACP, only 14% of Black Americans believe the vaccine will be safe, an after-effect of the Tuskegee Study that ended in 1972.
Even when they lead a relatively small share of initiatives, women like North Carolina native Kizzmekia Corbett produce great advancements in public health.
Women Combating COVID-19's Impact
Mandy Krauthamer Cohen, M.D., MPH, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services since 2017.
Joy Parr Drach, president and CEO of Advanced Animal Diagnostics (AAD), pivoted AAD’s QScout to be used on humans to test white blood cell differential.
Machelle Sanders was appointed as Secretary of the Department of Commerce in February, after serving in the NC Department of Administration. Sanders’ economic restoration vision includes marrying innovation and leadership and expanding workforce development initiatives following the damage created by the pandemic. A graduate of North Carolina State University, Sanders holds a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry and a Master of Health Administration from Pfeiffer University. She is a former vice president of manufacturing and general manager of Biogen’s largest manufacturing facility in Research Triangle Park and also held leadership positions overseeing manufacturing, global quality assurance and quality control functions at Biogen and Diosynth-Akzo Nobel. While at Biogen, Sanders created a Women’s Innovation Network.
Kimberly Smith, M.D., is senior vice president and head of R&D at ViiV Healthcare in RTP. The AIDS drug development spinout joined the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, which brings together pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions in the search for treatment options. Additionally, the company created ViiV Healthcare Global HIV and COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund to fund research on the effects of COVID-19 on the HIV community.
While International Women’s Day is worldwide, it is important to recognize the great leaders within our state. Of North Carolina’s 775 life sciences companies, only some 6% of these are led by women. The ratio is similar to that of the nation’s other leading life sciences hubs.
Here are female leaders of North Carolina life science companies so far identified by NCBiotech.
If you know of someone who should be added to this list, please contact Jim Shamp:
Afreen Allam, president and CEO of SiNON Therapeutics, Durham
Mindy Allport-Settle, CEO of PharmaLogika Inc., Willow Springs
Suzanne Babcock, chairman and CEO of CivaTech Oncology Inc., Morrisville
Deborah Bitterfield, CEO and founder of Lindy Biosciences, Inc., RTP
Ann Black, president and CEO of ImmunoReagents Inc., Raleigh
Juliana Blum, Ph.D., co-founder and COO of Humacyte, Durham
Donna Bortner, CEO of TransViragen Inc., Chapel Hill
Allison London Brown, founder, CEO, UVision 360, Raleigh
Toni Riggin Bucci, Ph.D., COO at AgBiome, RTP
Jennifer Byrne, CEO of Javara Inc., Winston-Salem
Ginger Dosier, co-founder and CEO of Biomason, RTP
Joy Parr Drach, president and CEO of Advanced Animal Diagnostics Inc., Morrisville
Hortense Dodo - president, CEO, co-founder, IngateyGen LLC
Amanda Elam, president of Galaxy Diagnostics Inc., RTP
JiNan Glasgow, president and CEO of Neo IP, Durham
Cynthia Greer, president of Cedarlane Laboratories Ltd., Burlington
Amy Greeson, CEO of Natural Discoveries Inc., Winston-Salem
Lisa Grimes, CEO of PurThread Technologies Inc., Cary
Dipti Gulati, president of PJI Biotech LLC, Morrisville
Mary Helms, president and co-founder of Rho, Durham
Elut Hsu, president of Asymchem Laboratories, Morrisville
Edna Hu, president of BIoCI Systems Inc., Raleigh
Pratap Joshi, CEO of Bio Matrix Inc., Greensboro
Rita King, CEO of MethodSense Inc., RTP
Pepper Landson, co-founder and CEO of Praetego Inc., Durham
Myla Lai-Goldman, president and CEO of GeneCentric Diagnostics Inc., RTP
Yolanda Renee Lea-Currie, Ph.D., president and founder, Brite Bio, RTP, and director of cell biology, ZenBio, RTP
Sharon Letchworth, president of Letchworth Pharma Consulting Inc., Kernersville
Karen LeVert, president and CEO of Southeast TechInventures Inc., Durham
Elizabeth Livanos, president and senior cytogeneticist of KaryoLogic Inc., Durham
Kelli Luginbuhl, founder and CEO of Isolere Bio, Durham
Elizabeth Miescher-Clemens, president and COO of HepatoSys Inc., Cornelius
Sheila Mikhail, CEO and co-founder of Asklepios BioPharmaceutical Inc., RTP
Natalia Mitin, CEO of Sapere Bio, RTP
Susan B. Nichols, president and CEO of Falcon Therapeutics, Durham
Laura Niklason, M.D., Ph.D., founder and CSO of Humacyte, Durham
Meg Powell, co-chair of TARGET PharmaSolutions, Durham, and co-founder of 501 Ventures, Chapel Hill
Nirmala Ramanujam, founder of Zenalux Biomedical Inc., Durham
Karen Romines, president and CEO of Pathfinder Pharmaceuticals Inc., Durham
Nancy Rosborough, founder and CEO of Mycorrhiza Biotech LLC, Burlington
Kimberly Smith, M.D., senior vice president and head of R&D at ViiV Healthcare, RTP
Paula Brown Stafford, president and COO of Novan, Morrisville
Lea Strickland, president and CEO of F.O.C.U.S. Resources, Morrisville
Lynda Sutton, president and chief regulatory officer of Cato Research Ltd., Durham
Anne Whitaker, director and CEO of Aerami Therapeutics, Durham
Constance Wilson, founder, president and CEO of Endacea Inc., RTP
Women Cultivating the Next Generation of Life Sciences Professionals
Samira Musah, Ph.D., Duke Dept. of Biomedical Engineering, assistant professor
Lenora Campbell, Ph.D., NC A&T, dean of the College of Health & Human Sciences
Kristen Rhinehardt, NC A&T, assistant professor, College of Engineering
Liesl Jeffers-Francis, NC A&T, assistant professor. College of Science and Technology, Biology
Sherine Obare, Ph.D., dean and professor at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering in Greensboro, member of NCBiotech’s Triad Advisory Committee
Women in the Funding Landscape
Mary Cantando, founder of The Woman's Advantage Forum and foudning member of xElle Ventures, Durham
Dina Coker, MBA, founder and CEO of BLINK Agency and xElle Ventures executive committee member, Durham
Eva Doss, president and CEO of The Launch Place, RTP
Robbie Hardy, chair of xElle Ventures, Durham
Jill Kaplan, Escape Velocity Inc and xElle Ventures executive committee member, Durham
Karen LeVert, MBA, president and CEO Southeast TechInventures and venture partner with Pappas Capital, Durham
Shawna Lemon, JD, Ph.D., patent attorney, founder and co-managing shareholder at Stanek Lemon Law Firm as well as partner and shareholder with xElle Ventures, Durham
Ann Miller, owner at Sobeck Miller Solutions, LLC and xElle Ventures executive committee member, Durham
Christy Shaffer, Ph.D., general partner, Hatteras Venture Partners, Durham
Jennifer Turnage, founding member of xElle Ventures, Durham