Piper Trelstad, head of CMC, Bill & Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute

Q&A with Gates leader: Women tak­ing on more roles in phar­ma man­u­fac­tur­ing, but still work to do

More and more women are dri­ving in­no­va­tion and tak­ing lead­er­ship roles in biotech – as ev­i­denced to­day in the re­lease of End­points News’ list of the top 20 women in the R&D world – but those gains are be­gin­ning to ex­tend across phar­ma sec­tors.

In phar­ma man­u­fac­tur­ing in the US to­day, around 46% of all roles are oc­cu­pied by women, ac­cord­ing to the US Bu­reau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics for 2021. And ac­cord­ing to a Bloomberg re­port, women’s roles across man­u­fac­tur­ing roles had a mas­sive boost af­ter the start of the pan­dem­ic.

As the roles of women con­tin­ue to grow in phar­ma man­u­fac­tur­ing, End­points talked with Piper Trel­stad, the head of chem­istry, man­u­fac­tur­ing and con­trols (CMC) at the Bill & Melin­da Gates Med­ical Re­search In­sti­tute (Gates MRI), to get a sense of how and why women’s roles are grow­ing and chang­ing – and what lies ahead.

This in­ter­view has been edit­ed for clar­i­ty.

End­points: What has been lead­ing to a rise in women oc­cu­py­ing roles in the phar­ma man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try?

Piper Trel­stad: I think that there’s been a con­cert­ed ef­fort to ad­dress it. I think there’s in­ter­est in it they are good jobs, in­ter­est­ing jobs. I think there’s been a con­cert­ed ef­fort is there’s been sort of a con­scious­ness that we’re kind of see­ing a ceil­ing and so that there are pro­grams and ef­forts to en­sure that women lead­ers are get­ting the men­tor­ship that is awk­ward, so crit­i­cal, and see­ing women rise. I think there’s a lit­tle bit of a snow­balling ef­fect too, as you have more peo­ple in lead­er­ship po­si­tions who are role mod­els for those who are kind of com­ing up through the ranks. So, I think there’s a com­bi­na­tion of a num­ber of fac­tors that are con­tribut­ing to that, and again, we’re not at par­i­ty quite yet but we at least seem to be head­ed in the right di­rec­tion.

End­points: What sort of roles are women oc­cu­py­ing in the man­u­fac­tur­ing field?

Trel­stad: I think it’s a mix­ture. I mean, I do think that you see women in all parts of the or­ga­ni­za­tion, at least in my ex­pe­ri­ence from man­u­fac­tur­ing, through­out and again, kind of in­creas­ing­ly and in those C-suite roles. His­tor­i­cal­ly you’ve seen a lot of women in roles, like qual­i­ty roles, and reg­u­la­to­ry, some of those that are in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant sup­port roles, but I think you’re start­ing to see more even in the more tra­di­tion­al­ly male-dom­i­nat­ed man­u­fac­tur­ing and tech­ni­cal roles as well.

End­points: What are some fac­tors that are still hold­ing back women from join­ing the phar­ma man­u­fac­tur­ing roles and what is be­ing done to ad­dress them?

Trel­stad: I think there’s al­so in my ex­pe­ri­ence when women de­cide to have fam­i­lies that that’s of­ten a key de­ci­sion point, like do they feel like they can bal­ance that work, which is of­ten de­mand­ing and so hav­ing, good child­care op­tions are so crit­i­cal­ly im­por­tant. So, I think there’s cer­tain­ly an op­por­tu­ni­ty I think, as a so­ci­ety to do bet­ter, you do see that some com­pa­nies are pro­vid­ing, pro­vid­ing child­care. So, for me, I’ve seen new su­per tal­ent­ed women, and then they start their fam­i­lies, and then they ei­ther kind of step back al­to­geth­er or come back and roles that are a lit­tle bit maybe less as­pi­ra­tional than what they might have thought ear­li­er in their ca­reers.

End­points: What should man­u­fac­tur­ers be do­ing to maybe start­ed at­tract­ing a wider fe­male work­force?

Trel­stad: Large­ly they’re do­ing a pret­ty good job in terms of bring­ing women in out of school. I think you’ll see that there’s rea­son­able par­i­ty in terms of the num­bers in the low­er lev­els of the or­ga­ni­za­tions and I think the da­ta sup­ports that. The ques­tion is how you keep them in and keep mak­ing sure that they’re be­ing pro­mot­ed on the same at the same rate in which men are and I think that you have to be  con­scious that you’re mak­ing sure that you’re de­vel­op­ing women, that you’re cre­at­ing those men­tor­ing roles in or­der to make sure that you’re bring­ing them along. Mak­ing sure that you’re giv­ing every­body the op­por­tu­ni­ties, it’s prob­a­bly not just sort of a women/men thing. If you’re try­ing to get di­ver­si­ty across the board, and this is some­thing that at the Gates Med­ical Re­search In­sti­tute we have very con­scious and have a strong kind of DEI ef­fort. So we’re think­ing about those both as part of that hir­ing process but al­so as we grow and think­ing about what op­por­tu­ni­ties we’re giv­ing peo­ple and how we’re train­ing our folks.

End­points: Where do you see the fu­ture of fe­male par­tic­i­pa­tion in this in­dus­try go­ing, will it in­crease or stay at this lev­el?

Trel­stad: My hope is it’ll keep in­creas­ing and get to par­i­ty I don’t think we’re done yet. I think we’ll con­tin­ue to see that rise. And I think that the rea­son for that is I think it’s been pret­ty clear that when you have good di­ver­si­ty in an or­ga­ni­za­tion, you get bet­ter think­ing. And so, I think that’s go­ing to con­tin­ue to dri­ve that just from a busi­ness per­spec­tive I think it makes it makes sense.

Late Fri­day ap­proval; Trio of biotechs wind down; Stem cell pi­o­neer finds new fron­tier; Biotech icon to re­tire; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

I hope your weekend is off to a nice start, wherever you are reading this email. As for me, I’m trying to catch the tail of the Lunar New Year festivities.

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Pfiz­er lays off em­ploy­ees at Cal­i­for­nia and Con­necti­cut sites

Pfizer has laid off employees at its La Jolla, CA, and Groton, CT sites, according to multiple LinkedIn posts from former employees.

The Big Pharma confirmed to Endpoints News it has let go of some employees, but a spokesperson declined to specify how many workers were impacted and the exact locations affected. Earlier this month, the drug developer had confirmed to Endpoints it was sharpening its focus and doing away with some early research on areas such as rare disease, oncology and gene therapies.

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Massachusetts-based iVexSol has secured funding to the tune of $23.8 million in its latest Series A round. The new investors include Bristol Myers Squibb, manufacturer Charles River Laboratories and Asahi Kasei Medical.

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Sam­sung Bi­o­log­ics spells out ex­pan­sion plans in South Ko­rea and US

The CDMO arm of one of South Korea’s largest conglomerates has posted its year-end results and plans for 2023, which include new construction.

Samsung Biologics netted north of KRW 3 trillion ($2.4 billion) in 2022 revenue and an operating profit of KRW 983.6 billion ($799 million), which the company touted on Friday as “record-high earnings.” The revenue boost was 55% compared to 2021.

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Lil­ly en­ters ripe BTK field with quick FDA nod in man­tle cell lym­phoma

Eli Lilly has succeeded in its attempt to get the first non-covalent version of Bruton’s tyrosine kinase, or BTK, inhibitors to market, pushing it past rival Merck.

The FDA gave an accelerated nod to Lilly’s daily oral med, to be sold as Jaypirca, for patients with relapsed or refractory mantle cell lymphoma.

The agency’s green light, disclosed by the Indianapolis Big Pharma on Friday afternoon, catapults Lilly into a field dominated by covalent BTK inhibitors, which includes AbbVie and Johnson & Johnson’s Imbruvica, AstraZeneca’s Calquence and BeiGene’s Brukinsa.

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No­vavax gets ready to take an­oth­er shot at Covid vac­cine mar­ket with next sea­son plans

While mRNA took center stage at yesterday’s FDA vaccine advisory committee meeting, Novavax announced its plans to deliver an updated protein-based vaccine based on new guidance.

Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) members voted unanimously in favor of “harmonizing” Covid vaccine compositions, meaning all future vaccine recipients would receive a bivalent vaccine, regardless of whether they’ve gotten their primary series.

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Eliot Forster, F-star CEO (Rachel Kiki for Endpoints News)

F-star gets down to the wire with $161M sale to Chi­nese buy­er as na­tion­al se­cu­ri­ty con­cerns linger

With the clock ticking on F-star Therapeutics’ takeover by a Chinese buyer, the companies are still scrambling to remove a hold on the deal from the US government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

F-star and invoX Pharma said they are “actively negotiating” with CFIUS “about the terms of a mitigation agreement to address CFIUS’s concerns regarding potential national security risks posed by the transaction.”

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CBER Director Peter Marks (Susan Walsh/AP Images)

FDA ad­vi­so­ry com­mit­tee votes unan­i­mous­ly in fa­vor of bi­va­lent Covid shots re­plac­ing pri­ma­ry se­ries

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