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January 09, 2017
Pioneering women in life sciences R&D
By: Nicole Faust Cohen

The recent FiercePharma article, Fierce Women in Biopharma 2016, acknowledged 15 trailblazers in the industry—women who are leading development efforts, anchoring venture funds and overseeing key functions ranging from legal affairs to computing. The article also prompted me to consider my own career and how fortunate I’ve been to work with a number of smart, strong women leaders, from heads of regulatory and R&D procurement to medical affairs, pharmacovigilance and more.

Two leaders I admire immensely—Annalisa Jenkins (CEO Dimension Therapeutics) and Hilary Malone (Head, Global Regulatory Affairs at Sanofi)—are women to watch. They bring out the best in those around them, encouraging others to bring forward their ideas, approaching the world around them with a “yes, and” mentality—providing a collaborative environment that sparks innovation. They are role models, who show women, myself included, that we can be influential and successful in an industry that strives to meet serious medical needs, improve patient outcomes and have a positive effect on people’s lives.

The life sciences industry has always tended to attract leaders (male and female) who are disciplined and focused, agile and flexible, and who demand rigor in decision-making. But there are other characteristics that set women like Jenkins and Malone apart. Here are four:

Broad strategic thinkers

Both women have shown that they think beyond the scope of their current function. They consider what success looks like for the entire company and for the patients affected by their decisions. And they engage with their teams and stakeholders across the company to achieve their goals.

Articulate speakers

They are known for being well-spoken and thoughtful in their communication with other senior leaders, external partners, health authorities, their teams and pharma partners. That they support their points of view with data and structured arguments makes them trusted and respected leaders.

Focus on the development of women in leadership roles

They are both committed to and involved with developing the next generation of women leaders. Whether through personal coaching and mentoring or support of organizations such as the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA), they reach out to and promote the women who are the future of our industry.

Welcome transformation

Finally, both Jenkins and Malone welcome transformation. Neither woman settles for the status quo. Instead, they constantly work on transformative agendas and innovation. Big thinkers, with a vision for success and the will to make it happen, they mobilize other senior leaders and create leading organizations that turn their visions into reality.

These four characteristics are just a few of the many things to admire in these powerful women and others like them. Whether they are driving the development of new therapies or leading regulatory affairs, they are passionate about their portfolio, the people they work with and the opportunities they pursue to create a positive impact in the world—and there’s a lot we can learn from them.

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