Editor’s note: This story is part of our 2022 PharmaVoice 100 feature.
Throughout her career, Lisa Walters-Hoffert has been a visionary in women’s health before others even recognized the need for innovation and investment in the field.
After serving on the board of Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest for a decade, where she helped grow the affiliate and facilitate a critical agreement with Afaxys to make birth control available to underserved populations, Walters-Hoffert decided it was time to turn her talents to building a company dedicated to improving the health and lives of women. In 2015 she teamed up with 2021 PharmaVoice 100 honoree Sabrina Martucci Johnson to found Daré Bioscience.
A healthcare investment banker by trade, Walters-Hoffert brings more than just financial savvy to her role as chief financial officer. Her strengths in M&A and staff motivation have proved invaluable to Daré Bioscience’s growth and success, and Walters-Hoffert has fearlessly gone where few, if any, CFOs have ventured before in women’s health.
According to her nominator, Walters-Hoffert has created innovative financial strategies to fund development activities “via stock sales, cost-sharing collaborations, non-dilutive grants, cost-effective partnerships and acquisitions.” As a result, Daré Bioscience colleagues are inspired by her pioneering spirit to have the company forge new ground financially and clinically.
“Reproductive healthcare is basic healthcare, and we all must step up to ensure all women, no matter where they live, can access the treatments they need.”
Co-founder and chief financial officer, Daré Bioscience
In eight short years, Daré Bioscience has advanced eight programs in women’s health, including Xaciato, an FDA-approved treatment for bacterial vaginosis.
Passionate about making a difference, Walters-Hoffert believes those blessed with professional success need to donate their time, talent and money to organizations that are making a difference in the lives of many. In addition to continuing to support Planned Parenthood, she currently serves on the board of the Elementary Institute of Science (EIS) and is a committed mentor.
“I believe we need to serve as role models and mentors within our organizations and through external programs involving students,” she says. “The best way to pay it forward is to show up and get involved.”
Here, Walters-Hoffert discusses her career journey, concerns around women’s health and how she’s adapted to a changing work environment.
PharmaVoice: What initially drew you to the life sciences industry and propelled your career in biotechnology?
Lisa Walters-Hoffert: I started my career as an investment banker. While there were many industries that fascinated me, the chance to make a difference in the health and well-being of an individual and his or her family, while simultaneously creating value for investors appealed to me.
I raised capital for a company developing a new diagnostic technology to assist physicians in locating the sentinel lymph node near a cancerous tumor. Many years later, this diagnostic tool was used on my brother in connection with stage 2b melanoma. The diagnostic helped guide his surgery and the treatment that followed. Having played a small role in advancing a technology that helped my brother and many others like him doesn't get much better than this.
What is the single most important trend impacting your area of focus?
For many years, innovation in women's health suffered from a lack of funding, understanding of unmet needs and focus. Recently, the single most important trend involves efforts to curtail therapeutic options and choices for women in reproductive health. These developments are both shocking and unacceptable and will negatively impact the lives of many women and their families. Reproductive healthcare is basic healthcare, and we all must step up to ensure all women, no matter where they live, can access the treatments they need.
What is your leadership style and what leadership advice do you have for others?
Things I cannot control drive me nuts. Needless to say, the past few years have forced me to find new ways to adapt to an environment defined by unpredictability. I am collaborative, approachable, fair and fun. I love to teach and insert play into our work days. I recognize how important it is for all members of the team to know their value and feel it — myself included. On the other hand, I have very high expectations for accuracy, accountability and transparency.
My advice to others is to reach out and connect with members of your team more often than you think you need. Do your best to be approachable and fair. And, most importantly, listen.
What leadership skill have you honed during the past two years?
Daré has always been flexible in allowing members of our team to work remotely and during hours that work best for them. Hence, I was confident we could be productive. But I also worried about the impact of having zero in-person interactions over multiple months and what this might do to morale, focus, happiness and creativity. I am proud that my team was fully vested in crafting new work patterns and events to keep us connected and moving forward. I will carry the importance of pivoting quickly to maintain team engagement no matter what future curveball comes our way.