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Magda Marquet

Biotech leader shows it is possible to 'have it all'

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Magda Marquet’s mother was a very strong woman who always advised that she find her own path. She asked Marquet to promise her one thing — “never be financially dependent on a man.”

When her mother died of breast cancer, it convinced Marquet to do two things — live life to the fullest and forge a career in health care.

Today, the mother of two grown sons heads a biotech company, is involved in several others and is the new chairwoman of Biocom, the life sciences industry association, beginning January 2013.

After getting a doctorate degree in biochemical engineering from the University of Toulouse, France, she has built up 25 years of experience in the biotech industry, working in top positions for several well-known companies including Amylin Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: AMLN) and Vical Inc. (Nasdaq: VICL), where she patented several innovative methods for producing clinical grade DNA for gene therapy and vaccines.

She co-founded Althea Technologies with her husband in 1998, with the goal of making an impact in biotechnology.

Althea is a contract manufacturing company that produces biologics, does protein analytics, protein formulation development, and aseptic filling of products in syringes and vials.

“The mission we had then is the same we have now — to make a difference,” Marquet said.

Has she fulfilled that mission?

“I think so. When you are working in R&D, it’s always hard to realize you’ve made a difference — because when you’ve answered one question, then 10 more pop up.”

She has also contributed to several other companies as an angel investor, adviser or board member and co-founded Althea DX, a spin-off focused on companion diagnostics.

“I’m happy to be where I am — there is a lot more we can do, but it’s one step at a time. A few years ago, my husband and I started a nonprofit vaccine-developing institute in Botswana, to make economical vaccines using tobacco leaves for animals and rotavirus for humans,” she said, citing an example of the impact she’d like to make.

Being in the right place makes it possible to set and achieve multiple goals —and Marquet finds San Diego to be the perfect place, filled with many opportunities to make a difference, given its vibrant community and research and entrepreneurial environment.

Marquet moved from France to San Diego for work, began her family and then her own company. She believes women don’t have to make a choice between family and career, that it’s possible to have both.

“I always thought you can have it all — it was difficult at times to manage, but I learned a lot from my kids.”

Any words of wisdom for women in biotech?

“Really find your passion, which is the area where you want to make a difference,” she said. “Also, realize it’s not a straight line, you will get discouraged along the way, but as long as you keep your vision in mind, you will get there.”

She said nourishing that vision helped her despite the many hurdles she faced over the years, from technical to capital issues.

“When I started my career, we tried to imitate men, but it doesn’t work,” she said. “You have to really be yourself, find your strength and lead from your strength.”

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