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While a small sam­pling, BIO's third di­ver­si­ty re­port pro­vides 'bench­mark' for da­ta-fo­cused in­dus­try to fur­ther an­a­lyze

The num­bers are some­what in and biotech di­ver­si­ty looks rel­a­tive­ly sim­i­lar to what it has been for years.

A 2021 sam­pling paints a very lim­it­ed pic­ture of the in­dus­try, with BIO’s third an­nu­al di­ver­si­ty re­port in­clud­ing on­ly 99 re­spon­dent com­pa­nies. Most ques­tions were not or could not be an­swered by every sin­gle or­ga­ni­za­tion, mean­ing many went unan­swered, such as in­sight on board-lev­el de­mo­graph­ics.

Sheila Gu­jrathi

Nonethe­less, the sur­vey pro­vides a bench­mark for in­dus­try and its lead­ers to be­gin un­der­stand­ing, an­a­lyz­ing and con­tin­ue mon­i­tor­ing progress on DEI ini­tia­tives, Sheila Gu­jrathi, mem­ber of mul­ti­ple biotech boards and Or­biMed ven­ture ad­vi­sor, told End­points News.

“I ap­plaud the ef­forts. I think it’s great that we’re hav­ing this re­port and get­ting these sur­veys done and mak­ing an ef­fort to ad­dress this very im­por­tant top­ic for our in­dus­try,” Gu­jrathi said.

She and oth­ers, in­clud­ing Ang­ie You, asked if the sur­vey is a true rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the in­dus­try and whether there was se­lec­tion bias among the re­spon­dents.

Ang­ie You

“I tend to be an op­ti­mist but I won­der if those who did re­spond are more proac­tive about DEI which could lead to in­flat­ed di­ver­si­ty num­bers. For ex­am­ple, I’m sur­prised that women make up 20% of CEOs in our in­dus­try,” You, who sold her im­muno-on­col­o­gy biotech Amu­nix to Sanofi late last year, told End­points in an email.

Gu­jrathi and Tra­vere Ther­a­peu­tics CEO Er­ic Dube em­pha­sized biotech is a da­ta-dri­ven in­dus­try, and lead­ers will like­ly pour over the num­bers as a start­ing point.

“As a sci­ence-based in­dus­try we know the pow­er of da­ta. The an­nu­al BIO DEI re­port should serve as a cat­a­lyst for every biotech ex­ec­u­tive in or­der to achieve a more eq­ui­table world. We must now move from state­ments about DEI to ac­tions that re­flect our com­mit­ment,” Dube told End­points in an email.

Dube pre­vi­ous­ly told End­points he is work­ing with oth­er San Diego-area biotech lead­ers to start an OUT­bio chap­ter in the re­gion for the in­dus­try’s LGBTQ com­mu­ni­ty.

Er­ic Dube

Out of the 91 com­pa­nies, 84 re­port­ed da­ta on CEO gen­der. Men led 66 of the com­pa­nies and women led 17. Fifty of 71 CEOs were white, 10 were Asian, sev­en were His­pan­ic/Lat­inx and three were Black.

Shao-Lee Lin, CEO of Los An­ge­les-based Ace­lyrin, put bio­phar­ma’s num­bers in a broad­er con­text, not­ing a March 2021 Bloomberg re­port found 15% of top 500 pub­licly list­ed US com­pa­nies were led by women.

“Those num­bers un­der­score how much Amer­i­can in­dus­try must im­prove not on­ly to achieve greater di­ver­si­ty in the work­force but al­so to re­al­ize the promise of greater in­no­va­tion that di­verse tal­ent can con­tribute,” Lin told End­points in an email. “The 2022 BIO di­ver­si­ty re­port high­lights that de­spite its small size and short­er his­to­ry, the bio­phar­ma in­dus­try is mak­ing rel­a­tive­ly good progress in its DEI ef­forts. But we have a long way to go.”

Shao-Lee Lin

Di­ver­si­ty should be in­fused through­out the en­tire com­pa­ny, Lin, You and oth­er ex­ec­u­tives point­ed out.

Women com­prised 49% of over­all em­ploy­ee bases, across 36 com­pa­nies that re­port­ed such da­ta for the BIO sur­vey, con­duct­ed with non­prof­it think tank Co­qual.

“Rep­re­sen­ta­tion of non-bi­na­ry pro­fes­sion­als re­mained neg­li­gi­ble, as many or­ga­ni­za­tions do not yet col­lect da­ta about em­ploy­ees who iden­ti­fy out­side of the gen­der bi­na­ry of men and women,” the BIO re­port said.

Out of 39 com­pa­nies, women com­prised 34% of ex­ec­u­tive teams and men made up 66%. One-quar­ter of ex­ec­u­tive teams, out of 32 re­spon­dents, saw a de­crease in women in the C-suite from 2020. Ex­ec­u­tive teams were al­so large­ly white, at 72% of 31 re­spon­dents.

Work­ers were slight­ly more di­verse, with white em­ploy­ees com­pris­ing 56% of staff, Asian em­ploy­ees mak­ing up 21%, His­pan­ic/Lat­inx work­ers at 7% and Black em­ploy­ees at 6%. Na­tive Hawai­ian/Pa­cif­ic Is­land and Na­tive Amer­i­can/Alaskan Na­tive work­ers made up a to­tal of 0.6% of work­forces.

The re­port did not in­clude da­ta on oth­er de­mo­graph­ics, such as LGBTQ+ in­di­vid­u­als, though BIO not­ed 21% of re­spon­dents tracked LGBTQ iden­ti­ty of their em­ploy­ees, a jump from 10% in 2020.

“We again en­deav­ored to ex­plore sev­er­al ar­eas of in­ter­est, such as LGBTQ rep­re­sen­ta­tion and part­ner­ships with women-owned and/or mi­nor­i­ty-owned sup­pli­ers but did not have suf­fi­cient­ly high re­sponse rates to these ques­tions,” the re­port not­ed.

Jake Be­craft

Jake Be­craft, CEO of Strand Ther­a­peu­tics, said founder-led biotechs could help pave the way for a more di­verse in­dus­try go­ing for­ward. He not­ed in­vestors and lead­ers in the in­dus­try will of­ten say man­age­ment needs to have “gray hair.”

“These are of course broad strokes, but what is im­por­tant to note is that any time there is a small col­lec­tion of de­ci­sion mak­ers at the top, and those peo­ple rough­ly come from the same back­grounds, they will pat­tern match to more of the same. Time to shake the mold,” Be­craft said.

No­tably, the re­port on­ly in­clud­ed re­sults from 99 com­pa­nies out of an in­dus­try that in­cludes thou­sands of bio­phar­mas. Most of the re­spond­ing com­pa­nies are based in the US, at 85%, and a few are lo­cat­ed in Eu­rope, Asia, Cana­da, Aus­tralia and South Amer­i­ca. No bio­phar­mas from Africa were in­clud­ed.

Be­craft said he was un­sure if com­pa­nies like his had re­ceived the sur­vey when it was be­ing con­duct­ed from No­vem­ber 2021 to Jan­u­ary 2022.

Michelle Mc­Mur­ry-Heath

“BIO is com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing that all peo­ple are able to par­tic­i­pate in – and ben­e­fit from – the biotech in­dus­try’s ef­forts to cure pa­tients, pro­tect the cli­mate, and nour­ish hu­man­i­ty,” BIO pres­i­dent and CEO Michelle Mc­Mur­ry-Heath said in a state­ment. “This com­mit­ment be­gins with en­sur­ing that the work­force re­flects those our in­dus­try serves. We have more work to do, and BIO plays an im­por­tant role as a thought leader and re­source for the biotech­nol­o­gy in­dus­try.”

Gu­jrathi said BIO is of­fer­ing to pro­vide ed­u­ca­tion­al and best prac­tices re­sources for bio­phar­mas look­ing to in­crease their DEI ef­forts and the in­dus­try ex­ec­u­tive be­lieves di­ver­si­ty, eq­ui­ty and in­clu­sion are “com­ing more to the fore­front.”

More aware­ness is com­ing thanks to stats sim­i­lar to the ones cit­ed in the BIO re­port, Gu­jrathi said. She, You and oth­ers have brought to­geth­er more than 100 fe­male ex­ec­u­tives in drug de­vel­op­ment over the past few months, in­clud­ing a March re­treat, and are sprout­ing up re­gion­al events to net­work and build up spon­sor­ship of fel­low fe­male lead­ers. Some mem­bers of the group, which Gu­jrathi refers to as the “biotech sis­ter­hood,” are com­ing to­geth­er Wednes­day night for din­ner on the out­skirts of the BIO con­ven­tion, she said.

In ad­di­tion to shar­ing in­dus­try stats, the re­port in­clud­ed DEI com­mu­ni­ca­tion strate­gies and rec­om­men­da­tions for ramp­ing up DEI. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion can oc­cur via quar­ter­ly town halls, month­ly emails and out­reach di­rect­ly from CEOs and oth­er ex­ec­u­tives, the re­port not­ed. For broad­er DEI ef­forts, da­ta should be col­lect­ed, tracked and shared.

Pay eq­ui­ty, in­ter­sec­tion­al­i­ty, feed­back, spon­sor­ship and em­ploy­ee re­source groups should all be con­sid­ered as well, the re­port con­clud­ed.

2023 Spot­light on the Fu­ture of Drug De­vel­op­ment for Small and Mid-Sized Biotechs

In the context of today’s global economic environment, there is an increasing need to work smarter, faster and leaner across all facets of the life sciences industry.  This is particularly true for small and mid-sized biotech companies, many of which are facing declining valuations and competing for increasingly limited funding to propel their science forward.  It is important to recognize that within this framework, many of these smaller companies already find themselves resource-challenged to design and manage clinical studies themselves because they don’t have large teams or in-house experts in navigating the various aspects of the drug development journey. This can be particularly challenging for the most complex and difficult to treat diseases where no previous pathway exists and patients are urgently awaiting breakthroughs.

Dipal Doshi, Entrada Therapeutics CEO

Ver­tex just found the next big ‘trans­for­ma­tive’ thing for the pipeline — at a biotech just down the street

Back in the summer of 2019, when I was covering Vertex’s executive chairman Jeff Leiden’s plans for the pipeline, I picked up on a distinct focus on myotonic dystrophy Type I, or DM1 — one of what Leiden called “two diseases (with DMD) we’re interested in and we continue to look for those assets.”

Today, Leiden’s successor at the helm of Vertex, CEO Reshma Kewalramani, is plunking down $250 million in cash to go the extra mile on DM1. The lion’s share of that is for the upfront, with a small reserve for equity in a deal that lines Vertex up with a neighbor in Seaport that has been rather quietly going at both of Vertex’s early disease targets with preclinical assets.

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Ahead of ad­comm, FDA rais­es un­cer­tain­ties on ben­e­fit-risk pro­file of Cy­to­ki­net­ic­s' po­ten­tial heart drug

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Ab­b­Vie slapped with age dis­crim­i­na­tion law­suit, fol­low­ing oth­er phar­mas

Add AbbVie to the list of pharma companies currently facing age discrimination allegations.

Pennsylvania resident Thomas Hesch filed suit against AbbVie on Wednesday, accusing the company of passing him over for promotions in favor of younger candidates.

Despite 30 years of pharma experience, “Hesch has consistently seen younger, less qualified employees promoted over him,” the complaint states.

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Gilead and Kite are plunking down big cash to get into the anti-BCMA CAR-T game.

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Christian Itin, Autolus CEO (UKBIO19)

Au­to­lus tips its hand, bags $220M as CAR-T show­down with Gilead looms

The first batch of pivotal data on Autolus Therapeutics’ CAR-T is in, and execs are ready to plot a path to market.

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