10 Women Biotech CEOs Lead the Charge

Published: Jun 26, 2018 By

Female Executive

The general consensus is that only about seven to nine percent of chief executive roles in biotech are filled by women. As low as that sounds, it’s better than in the Fortune 500, where only about 4.2 percent are led by female chief executives.

If you look at the biopharma industry in general, searching for women in top positions, whether in the executive suite or in technical programs, the percentage may be higher, at least anecdotally. However, when looking at that top spot, the percentages are quite low. Here’s a quick look at 10 women heading biopharma companies. They are certainly not the only ones, but they represent a broad swath of biopharma skill and leadership.


#1. Emma Walmsley. No list like this is complete without mentioning Emma Walmsley, who is the chief executive officer of GlaxoSmithKline. She is the first woman to head a major pharmaceutical company. Ever. She took on the role in April 2017, and is also on the company’s executive board. Prior to taking on the top spot, she was the chief executive officer of GSK Consumer Healthcare, a Joint Venture between GSK and Novartis. Before joining GSK, Walmsley was with L’Oreal. From 2007 until she joined GSK in 2011, she was L’Oreal’s general manager, Consumer Products for L’Oreal China, based in Shanghai.

#2. Anne Wojcicki. Wojcicki is the co-founder and chief executive officer of 23andMe. Prior to co-founding 23andMe with Linda Avey in 2006, Wojcicki was a healthcare analyst with PassPort Capital, and before that, a healthcare analyst with Andor Capital Management. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Yale University.

#3. Rachel Haurwitz. Haurwitz is the president and chief executive officer of Caribou Biosciences since its inception in 2011, the company founded by CRISPR co-discoverer, Jennifer Doudna. Haurwitz is also a co-founder of Intellia Therapeutics. She holds several patents and patent applications covering multiple CRISPR-based technologies. She received her PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California, Berkeley, and her Bachelor of Arts in Biological Sciences from Harvard.

#4. Katrine Bosley. Bosley is the chief executive officer of Editas Medicine. She is also the chairman of the board of Genocea Biosciences, and a board member of Galapagos NV, and Massachusetts Eye and Ear. From 2009 to 2012 she was the chief executive officer of Avila Therapeutics. She also was the chief executive officer of Celgene Avilomics Research. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Cornell University.

#4. Helen Torley. Torley is the president and chief executive officer and board member of Halozyme, which she joined in January 2014. Before joining Halozyme, Torley was the executive vice president and chief commercial officer for Onyx Pharmaceuticals. Prior to Onyx, she spent 10 years in management positions at Amgen, the latest of which was vice president and general manager of the U.S. Nephrology Business Unit from 2003 to 2009.

#5. Britt Meelby Jensen. Jensen is the president and chief executive officer of Danish biopharma company, Zealand Pharma. Before joining the company in January 2015, she was the chief executive officer of Agilent-owned Danish diagnostics company Dako. She received her Master of Science from Copenhagen Business School in Denmark, and an MBA from Solvay Business School in Brussels, Belgium.

#6. Deborah Dunsire. Dunsire has been the chief executive officer of XTuit Pharmaceuticals since 2017. Prior to joining XTuit she was president and chief executive officer of FORUM Pharmaceuticals. She is also a board member of Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical and Alexion Pharmaceuticals. Dunsire was also the president and chief executive officer of Millennium Pharmaceuticals from 2005 to 2008, when it was acquired by Takeda. She remained in the position until 2013.

#7. Tina Nova. Nova has been the president and chief executive officer of Molecular Stethoscope, a diagnostics company, since 2015. Prior to that she was senior vice president and general manager of Illumina’s oncology business unit. Nova co-founded Genoptix and acted as its president through 2014. She was Genoptix’ chief executive officer and board member from 2000 until 2011, when it was acquired by Novartis. She also co-founded Nanogen and was its president and chief operating officer.

#8. Rachel King. King is the co-founder and chief executive officer of GlycoMimetics. Prior to founding the company, she was an Executive in Residence at New Enterprise Associates (NEA), a venture capital firm. Prior to joining NEA, she was senior vice president of Novartis. Before Novartis, King spent 10 years with Genetic Therapy until it was acquired by Novartis. She ran the company as chief executive officer as a wholly owned subsidiary of Novartis.

#9. Maria Fardis. Fardis is the chief executive officer of Iovance Biotherapeutics. Prior to joining Iovance, Fardis was chief operating officer of Acerta Pharma. Previously she was chief of oncology operations and alliances for Pharmacyclics. She received her Bachelor of Science in Organic Chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, her PhD in Organic Chemistry from University of California, Berkeley, and her MBA from Golden State University.

#10. Mary Pat Moyer. Moyer is the founder, chief executive officer and chief science officer of INCELL Corporation, an emerging biopharmaceutical company focused on personalized medicine. Prior to founding and running INCELL, Moyer was professor and Research Division Head for the Surgery Department at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. She received her PhD in Microbiology from The University of Texas at Austin.

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