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These visionary thinkers are driving innovation around scientific breakthroughs and new technologies.
Fierce Advocate. Collaborative.
Uniting for Cures
Shao-Lee Lin, M.D., Ph.D.
Title: Executive VP, Head of Research and Development, and Chief Scientific Officer
Charged with building a robust, sustainable R&D portfolio and driving the next transformative phase of growth for Horizon Therapeutics, Shao-Lee Lin, M.D., Ph.D., has been uniting the best and brightest talent to form a diverse R&D team that can bring innovative thinking to solving development challenges.
As executive VP, head of research and development, and chief scientific officer at Horizon, Dr. Lin is leading a team whose mandate is to ultimately shorten the timeline to the development of transformative therapies that focus on rare and rheumatic diseases with high unmet treatment needs.
Dr. Lin’s goal is to leave a lasting impact on patients, and it is this goal that brought her to the biopharmaceutical industry. “We have the opportunity to set or improve standards of care by ensuring depth and scientific rigor in investigating therapies and in reinvesting in research to find new approaches or additional disease opportunities,” Dr. Lin says.
She notes that addressing more than 7,000 known rare diseases is one of the toughest challenges in medicine, which makes her role the most daunting of her career to date.
“At the current pace of FDA approvals, it would take thousands of years to find and develop medicines for each rare disease,” she says, adding that researchers need to look at development in a different way. “I’m inspired by collaborations with patient advocacy organizations, government regulators, and others in the industry to build upon what we know collectively so we can find innovative ways that we each contribute to speeding the development of therapies in rare disease,” she says.
To date, only 5% of rare diseases have treatments, and Dr. Lin wants to change those odds through the efforts of highly diverse, collaborative research teams. Her mantra is “all of us are better than any one of us.”
Early inspiration for Dr. Lin came through a program her high school co-sponsored with a local medical school to give students an opportunity to work in labs. Growing up in an immigrant household in tough neighborhoods in the United States, Dr. Lin deeply appreciated her dedicated teachers who nurtured her passion for science.
“My early passion for science was sparked by great teachers and further kindled by mentors throughout my career,” she says. “It was colleagues and mentors who shaped my openness to exploring paths in science and medicine that I had not expected to pursue. Their influences brought me to where I am today. I strive to provide the same support to others, and I value the opportunity to offer insights from my experiences to provide pathways to new skills and growth.”
Dr. Lin later earned her M.D. and Ph.D. at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
As a leader, Dr. Lin seeks to create a strong culture that keeps patients at the center, while supporting the growth of her team members. She encourages dissenting ideas to both nurture healthy debate and craft the best concepts.
“I strive to ignite the passion within each member of my team and nurture his or her individual talents through continuous mentorship,” she says. “Together, we create an environment that thrives on taking calculated risks to do what has never been done before and to create solutions for patients where there were no previous options.”
While the goal is to deliver a new medicine for a disease where there previously was none, Dr. Lin says development programs that don’t succeed also offer an opportunity to acquire new learnings for the future. Hence, “fast failure” is also rewarded.
She encourages her team to seek non-linear growth opportunities to expand their personal skills.
“My experiences reinforce the importance of a strong culture and leadership that values diversity of thought to drive innovation,” she says. “A strong culture enables the team to continue with the tenacity and compassion that is required to maintain the vision and ultimately achieve superior results.” (PV)
Scientific Rigor Meets an Enquiring Mind
Melissa J. Moore, Ph.D.
Title: Chief Scientific Officer, Platform Research
Industry Awards: Fiercest Women in Life Sciences, FiercePharma, 2018
Associations: RNA Society, Controlled Release Society
All science should be rigorous, says Melissa Moore, Ph.D., chief scientific officer at Moderna, a clinical-stage biotech company focused on drug discovery and drug development based on messenger RNA (mRNA). Melissa is directly responsible for driving innovation around the company’s core technologies — mRNA medicines — for a wide range of diseases and conditions.
“I keep my teams motivated by reminding them that we’re doing things that no one has ever done before, so we should expect our task to be difficult,” she says. “I find it useful to have quarterly data reviews, so even if it seems that little progress is being made day-to-day, the researchers can see that over longer timeframes, there is substantial forward movement.”
After receiving her Ph.D. from MIT and completing her postdoctoral work, Melissa focused on the challenging world of academic research around RNA. She rose to full professor at Brandeis University and then later moved to the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Along the way she inspired undergraduate and graduate students and post docs with her scientific expertise and personal style, won multiple academic awards, and established her reputation as a leader and successful scientist. Ultimately, she became a founding co-director of the renowned RNA Therapeutics Institute at UMass Medical School.
She was initially recruited to join the scientific advisory board at Moderna because of her scientific expertise around RNA. When the chief scientific officer position opened, she declared her interest in the position, left her lab, and moved into the world of biotech.
When she made the move to Moderna, she considered advice from her postdoctoral advisor, Phillip Sharp. He said, “If you’re thinking about making a big career change, make sure you’re running toward something and not just away from your current circumstance.”
Melissa was key to Moderna’s record-breaking IPO in December 2018 by making the company’s tremendous scientific data understandable to investors. She is not only committed to advancing the science and development of new medicines at Moderna, she is also dedicated to creating new processes and tools to connect the growing number of employees, currently around 750 as well as helping to develop a company culture of collaboration, inclusion, and results.
Melissa impresses colleagues with her scientific expertise, her humanity, her skills at team building, and her commitment to mentoring/sponsoring other women in science.
Always eager to learn, she says she loves interacting with her colleagues and seeing the energy and dedication they bring to their work to progress Moderna’s mRNA technology.
She is focused on continually ensuring open and effective communication, both within the research platform and between the platform and other parts of the organization.
Colleagues say Melissa strives to help others see the big picture, give people assignments that stretch them, and is enthusiastic about their ability to succeed. And she demonstrates accountability by publicly owning her own mistakes and being straightforward and caring in her interactions with others.
“I aim to empower people to achieve their potential by giving them appropriate goals and advice, and then get out of their way,” she says. “I don’t micromanage. I try to be approachable and I do a lot of one-on-one mentoring. I also stress the essentiality of collaboration and being a trusted collaborator. I work hard to be respectful of people’s time.”
In addition to mentoring, Melissa acts as a sponsor, advocating for that person when he or she is not in the room. “Having been a professor for 25 years, mentoring and advising just comes naturally to me,” she says. “I take satisfaction in seeing my junior colleagues learn, grow, and succeed in their career paths.”
Melissa would like to join a board of directors and help other women and minorities obtain seats on boards. She says the lack of diversity in upper management and the C-suite is still a major issue in industry.
“If I had unlimited resources, I would use them to coach women and minorities on how to better prepare themselves for leadership and work to increase their visibility to executive/board search committees,” she says.
One of Melissa’s career highlights was being elected to the National Academy of Science in 2017. (PV)
Lisa von Moltke, M.D.
Title: Senior VP, Head, Clinical Development
Associations: American College of Clinical Pharmacology, past president; Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, past editor-in-chief
A framed clipping of the prescribing information for Cerdelga, a medication for the treatment of Gaucher’s disease, signed by all members of the development team, reminds Lisa von Moltke, M.D., of the hard work everyone from across functions and across regions put into the approval of the Sanofi/Genzyme therapy.
Now as senior VP, head, clinical development, at Alkermes, she is putting her passion and dedication to the life-sciences industry into the development of CNS therapies. She is a physician, researcher, and trailblazer who has been an ongoing source of encouragement and inspiration to those who have had the privilege of working alongside her.
Dr. von Moltke has a contagious determination, which ignites inspiration throughout the clinical pharmacology and translational medicine departments and contributes to team members’ pursuit of developing treatment options for diseases with unmet need. When she joined Alkermes, there were several late-stage projects in the pipeline that were reliant on pharmacokinetics and clinical endpoints, which she took over the finish line to achieve FDA approvals to improve patient experiences as well as patient lives.
This effort, she says, was a career highlight. “I supported bringing a schizophrenia treatment to market, a condition that affects an estimated 3.5 million Americans,” Dr. von Moltke says. She exemplifies both an energy and passion for Alkermes’ patient advocacy programs, switching from her role as a physician and leader in clinical development to nurturer and listener in a room full of hopeful patients.
Dr. von Moltke is a leader who truly embodies the mission of those who serve within this field of work. She puts patients first, and she cultivates their experiences and the potential to improve their quality of life, which is the motivation that drives every moment of work. She is committed to a calling much larger than herself, and she remains steadfast in her endeavors toward developing innovative medicines that make a meaningful difference in the way patients manage their diseases.
“I hope to inspire others through both my leadership as well as my passion for the patients we strive to discover treatment options for,” she says. “I like to say I’m a physician first — meaning before my role, title, or current position, being a physician and caring for patients is at the heart of what I do and who I am. I hope this commitment to those we serve inspires those around me to continue to pursue true unmet needs and be the driving engine to develop transformative medications for those who need them most.”
Challenges are inevitable in every professional environment, but the magnitude of each can at times feel daunting in an industry as complex and fast-paced as biotechnology, Dr. von Moltke says. “However, in the face of any adversity, our sense of purpose never diminishes,” she says. “Patients are truly the ‘why’ behind everything we do, and maintaining this perspective has instilled a fierce motivation in both me and my colleagues. We’re motivated by a calling much larger than our challenges.”
Those who have worked with Dr. von Moltke say she is consistent, conscientious, and considerate in her leadership approach and guides those she leads through each step of their careers with an open-door policy. “This practice is important to me because as head of our clinical development department, I value being an approachable leader who can hear what’s on the minds of my team members and offer both empathetic and effective solutions. The work I do would not be possible without the support of my colleagues, and therefore it is my responsibility to support them however needed, as well.”
She constantly offers her support both professionally and personally. Colleagues say her mentoring capabilities instill a fierce confidence that fosters growth and exploration throughout her team, which is vital to the development of the next generation of innovative, cutting-edge thinkers who will fuel the groundbreaking future of health and medicine.
She believes mentorship is the cornerstone of career development for young scientists and physicians as they navigate their professions within the industry. “It is essential to the livelihood of any industry to foster discussions and offer guidance to mentees when necessary,” she says. “These practices equip our colleagues with the skills and confidence necessary to explore their capabilities and enhance their development and ultimately the future of our industry.” (PV)
Committed to making a difference.
Angela Howes, Ph.D.
Title: VP, Head of Leukemia Development
Company: Janssen R&D
Company Awards: Numerous Standards of Leadership awards, The Johnson Medal
Associations: American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO); American Society of Hematology (ASH); European Haematology Association
Angela Howes, Ph.D., has dedicated her career to ensuring individual lives are enhanced by novel treatments. As VP, head of leukemia development, at Janssen R&D, she is a major voice for patients and her passion comes across in every project and every compound for which she leads the development. Her leadership played a key role in accelerating the development of Imbruvica for the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). She inspired her team around a strategic vision to generate impactful clinical data that formed the basis of worldwide approvals as well as supported broad utilization and access of Imbruvica for the benefit of patients.
In her role at Janssen, Angela has exemplified all of the key attributes of an innovative leader, including but not limited to, her commitment to career development — nearly all of her direct reports have been promoted into roles with increased responsibilities — strategic risk taking, generation of novel ideas, and comprehensive planning.
“I am particularly proud of the part I have played in the development and registration of Imbruvica for several B-cell malignancies, which has enabled more than a million patients worldwide to be treated with this transformational drug,” she says.
Angela is motivated to come to work every day because of what her team is accomplishing. “I work with great people and that makes every day a pleasure and the company is making a real difference to patients, but there is so much more still to be done,” she says. “There’s no time to waste.”
Angela is a trusted and recognized external partner by the medical community and internally by her cross-functional colleagues within Janssen. She has been recognized with special awards such as the Johnson Model, the highest research accolade that a Johnson & Johnson employee can receive. In addition, she is loved by her team for her commitment to advancing their careers as well as her cross-functional partnering skills and novel ideas, all of which are accomplished with a genuine and nurturing personality.
Colleagues say Angela is a true leader, someone who is selfless with her time, her knowledge, and support. All the same, Angela is not shy about challenging others when it comes to what’s best for patients.
She pays meticulous attention to details while carefully calculating the risks associated with each strategic move, all while keeping the patients in the forefront of each decision.
“In my experience, there is no challenge that is insurmountable or can’t be worked around,” she says. “The team can usually come up with a solution if they talk through the issue and brainstorm the possibilities. Sometimes drugs fail in development — I’ve worked on a few of them — and that’s hard for everyone who has invested so many years of effort and hope in the drug. But it’s a fact of life in drug development. The important thing is to take the learnings and move on to make the next development even better.”
Colleagues say Angela provides a safe and trusting environment in which they are encouraged to step outside of their own comfort zones occasionally and be the best that they can be.
She is a talented mentor and consistently recognizes those who contribute to the team’s success. She seeks opportunities to promote the strengths of her team and enhance the development of others in alignment with their personal goals.
Angela is a role model for women. She values the opportunity to share her wisdom and experience she has gained to help other women build a path through the complex environment of pharmaceutical research and development. (PV)