Women in Bio: OMass Taps Biogen Vet Nathalie Franchimont for Board of Directors

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When U.K.-based OMass Therapeutics began the search for a new member for its board of directors, Chief Executive Officer Rosamond Deegan knew exactly what to do. She turned to a network of colleagues she developed through her past participation in the Executive Women In Bio Boardroom Ready Program.

And it was through that network that she found Nathalie Franchimont, head of Multiple Sclerosis and Immunology Development Unit at Biogen. Franchimont, a member of the 2018 Boardroom Ready Program cohort, was the exact fit OMass was looking for, Deegan told BioSpace in an interview. With Franchimont’s selection for the board, Deegan said OMass found a person with the drug development and immunology experience the company needs.

“She has exactly the profile we were looking for,” Deegan said of Franchimont.

OMass is an early-stage therapeutics company with an eye on taking its assets into the clinic and through commercialization. Deegan, who was part of the second Boardroom Ready Program cohort, said Franchimont’s experience with Biogen and Amgen before that will prove to be an enormous benefit to the company.

Although the appointment was only just announced, Franchimont has already met with the OMass board of directors. She said her first meeting was productive and she looks forward to using her experiences in drug development to benefit OMass and help the company achieve clinical and commercial success.

“Joining the board will allow me to help guide and influence the development of a product from bench to bedside,” Franchimont told BioSpace. “I look forward to contributing to ongoing discussions on translation from bench science to the clinic, and ultimately to making real differences in the lives of patients.”

Prior to taking on her role as head of MS and Immunology at Biogen, Franchimont has held a number of leadership roles at the Boston-based company, including leading the MS Research and Early Development Group, New Indications Research and Early Development Unit and the Immunology Drug Innovation Unit. Before Biogen, she spent seven years with Amgen working in Medical Affairs and clinical research roles.

Franchimont’s appointment to the OMass Board of Directors marks the 50th appointment for a participant in the Women In Bio Boardroom Ready Program, which was founded in 2016 to provide greater opportunities for women in the life sciences industry to find positions on boards of directors. Deegan and Franchimont credit the Boardroom Ready program for not only meeting the needs of OMass, but also fulfilling the mission of the Boardroom Ready Program. Carolyn Brougham, Intellectual Property Counsel at Mars and a consultant to Executive Women In Bio, pointed to the way Deegan was able to find Franchimont was a perfect example of how the Boardroom Ready Program is supposed to work.

“This was the hope and prayer when we designed the program,” Brougham told BioSpace.

Board appointments are often made through referrals and the program was established to create a network for qualified female executives to find positions on boards that are typically male dominated. Brougham pointed to Franchimont’s experience as a prime reason why she is so qualified to sit on a board like at OMass. She also hailed Deegan for her leadership skills. Brougham noted that as Deegan has ascended the corporate ladder, she has reached out to the other alumnae of the Boardroom Ready Program to do what she can to help.

“This Boardroom Ready formula works. We now have 50 women serving on a board.
 Brougham said. “We’ve figured out a blueprint for success in the industry, tightknit cohorts that get to really know each other well and create networks.”

The Boardroom Ready Program is getting ready to welcome its newest class. The fifth cohort was announced earlier this month and will participate in a virtual program this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the new class begins its work, Brougham said they will be energized by Franchimont’s appointment, which is a testament to the design of the program.

“Diversity matters,” Franchimont said. “Involving more women and preparing them for a seat on a board is a fantastic mission.”

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