By Rob Wright
Women In Bio (WIB) recently held its 2012 annual dinner at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C., and I was lucky enough to be invited. In case you are unfamiliar, WIB is a 10-year-old organization focused on assisting women in life sciences who want to grow their careers and leadership and entrepreneurial skills. Given the energy in the room of 300-plus attendees, I am not surprised the organization has tripled its membership over the past 18 months — internationally. The event was attended by more than 300 men and women, some of which serve on Life Science Leader magazine’s editorial board. Here are two of the many fascinating people I had the opportunity to meet at this year’s gala.
New Leaders, New Science
The theme for the evening was new leaders, new science. Since I had just come from a drug development R&D conference, I wanted to focus on the leadership component. In my opinion, no matter how good the science, without high quality leadership, it might never see the light of day. One of the leaders I had the opportunity to get to know, Li-Hsien (Lily) Rin-Laures, M.D., J.D., is the chair of WIB’s Chicago chapter. A leading patent expert, I was surprised to learn that Lily, as she prefers to be called, entered college at the age of 13 and medical school at 17. Not only is she a doctor, lawyer, and WIB volunteer, she is the proud mother of three ranging in age from 8 to 15 years of age. Since she has been able to successfully manage all of her endeavors, perhaps I can get her to take on one more via contributing some future editorial content for Life Science Leader magazine.
Scientist, Surfer, and Survivor
Another leader I had the opportunity to meet, Laura Shawver, Ph.D., is the CEO of Cleave Biosciences. A serial entrepreneur and founder of the Clarity Foundation, a nonprofit organization providing access to molecular profiling for ovarian cancer patients, she served as the event’s keynote speaker. Recently featured in our February 2012 issue, Shawver walked the audience through how she got started in the biotech industry, rather than become a professor at the University of Kansas. An ovarian cancer survivor, she shared her experiences of securing bridge loan financing while receiving chemotherapy treatments and having her hair falling out in clumps, rationalizing – bald men do business deals all the time, so why should it be any different for a woman. According to Shawver, ¾ of women afflicted with ovarian cancer do not survive, and thus, she felt blessed to be able to share some advice with members in the audience. Drawing on her experience as a surfer and tying it back into business, she stated that many surfers don’t like to surf in cold water — because it is cold. The benefit of being willing to surf when others won’t is because there are fewer people, you get to ride and catch more waves. The business takeaway, sometimes you need to say yes when the majority is saying no. It may be a little uncomfortable initially, but success often resides just outside your comfort zone. Not bad advice from someone who was able to take her company’s bank account from zero to $44 million overnight.