ATHENA PINNACLE AWARD NOMINEES
Congratulations to our 2013 nominees. Athena would like to thank everyone who nominated and contributed the following excerpts for these exceptional candidates.
WINNER: Connie Matsui
Matsui is a strategic leader, consensus builder and change agent for organizations pursuing growth, transformation and renewal. She rose through the ranks at Biogen Idec/Idec Pharmaceuticals, ultimately serving as executive vice president. As a member of the executive committee, she led the transformation of a 100-person biotech startup into one of the most successful, global biopharmaceutical companies, with more than 4,000 employees.
Matsui currently serves as a board member and chair of the Compensation Committee for Halozyme Therapeutics, lending her expertise in alliance management, human resources and corporate communications.
While at Wells Fargo Bank, Matsui instituted innovative work/family programs, such as information/referral services for eldercare and childcare, leading to Wells Fargo being named one of the 100 best companies for working women by Working Mothers magazine in 1990 and 1991. Matsui has helped facilitate medical breakthroughs that have helped women and others around the world. She was inducted into the Stanford Alumni Hall of Fame in recognition of leadership in improving the quality of life of patients and of girls and women. She has served as a coach and mentor to women in business, IDEC/Biogen Idec colleagues as well as students of Stanford, Rady and Keck Institute.
Matsui has served in many leadership roles with the Girl Scouts, earning her recognition as an International Year of the Volunteer from United Nations Association of the USA Council of Organizations. She helped the organization reaffirm its core values, emphasized outreach and retention of underserved girls, highlighted the Girl Scouts Research Institute as a national resource on the healthy development of girls, and more.
Ursula Bellugi, Ph.D.
Professor/Director Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience
Bellugi was recruited to the Salk Institute by Jonas Salk himself, because he believed the institute needed to extend its focus beyond its world-class concentrations in molecular biology and cellular neuroscience. Through her Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience, established in 1970, Bellugi expanded the reputation and research of the Salk. With her late husband, Edward S. Klima, started their research at Salk on American Sign Language (ASL) in 1970. Their pioneering analyses of the structure of ASL and other signed languages conclusively demonstrated that these were full-fledged languages, with their own syntax and dialects, which were not derived from spoken languages.
Bellugi continues to be a pioneer, spearheading cross-disciplinary collaborations to help trace the influence of individual genes on the development and function of the brain, and on diseases such as autism and anxiety disorders.
Throughout her 40-year career, Bellugi has mentored female scientists and students. Most importantly, her life itself is an inspiration to women. Twice in her career, she broke new scientific ground despite warnings she would be wasting her time. With her Williams Syndrome research, she single-handedly forced the scientific and medical communities to recognize that a once-overlooked syndrome offered key insights into other developmental disorders.
As a senior scientist, she has demonstrated that a woman can be productive long after society would have consigned her to retirement. In 2011, she won renewal on a $5.5 million grant to continue her Williams research. That same year, she celebrated her 80th birthday. In 2007, she was inducted into the National Academy of Sciences.
Bird has devoted her career to helping health care organizations optimize their mission and improve clinical quality and profitability. Most recently, as vice president of Healthcare Services for PSC, a leading environmental services company, she established the health care business, including development of a pharmaceutical waste database, implementing regulatory and operational processes to handle toxic pharmaceutical waste, and establishing market strategy. As president and CEO of eStudySite, a leading clinical trials business, she led the expansion of the clinical study portfolio. As president of Cardinal Health’s Consulting and Services business, she was responsible for $150 million in revenue and 350 employees. Bird also led the turnaround of a pharmacy outsourcing business, sale of Cardinal’s pharmacy staffing business, integration of several acquisitions, divestiture of the consulting business and improved technology-based implementation processes. She also has substantial experience as a trauma and intensive care nurse.
Bird has provided many women with a perspective that has enabled them to tackle with renewed confidence otherwise daunting experiences. She has been instrumental in coaching individuals through challenging life and career changes, and her encouragement and wisdom over the years have been instrumental in empowering many to go beyond what they thought possible. Bird embodies the old adage that reads: “To whom much is given, much is expected.”
Bird has served as an active Connect Entrepreneur-In Residence helping launch startups, including a successful San Diego-based compounding pharmacy. She has been involved with Biocom, Corporate Directors Forum and has supported numerous charities, including Mama’s Kitchen, Coastal German Shepherd, The American Cancer Society and The American Liver Foundation.
Vice President, Human Resources
Amylin Pharmaceuticals LLC
Cabré has more than 20 years of experience in human resources with an outstanding track record of balancing business needs with people imperatives. Prior to Amylin, she served as HR director at Coopervision, where she was responsible for global human resources management of manufacturing, distribution, operations and quality. At Coopervision, Cabré was instrumental in supporting the integration of the newly acquired Ocular Sciences organization maintaining key personnel and leading numerous projects to effectively reorganize multiple sites around the world. During her 13 years at Motorola, she served in various HR management capacities supporting cellular infrastructure, mobile devices and paging business, in both sales and manufacturing throughout Latin America, Caribbean and South Florida.
Cabré was a passionate supporter of AROW (Amylin Reaching Out to Women) during her tenure. She spearheaded one of AROW’s most successful employee offerings -- Networking Around The World At Amylin, which allowed attendees to expand their professional networks with co-workers in a supportive environment.
In her role as a director on the board of the California Diversity Council, Cabré facilitated Amylin’s corporate sponsorship, which led to opportunities for women at Amylin to participate in diversity events. Members of AROW were invited as panel speakers and participants of workshops, enabling development of presentation and communication skills, as well as providing networking experiences.
As a senior woman leader at Amylin, Cabré’s participation in AROW mentoring events encouraged women in her department to become actively involved in managing and developing their careers.
Marsha Chandler, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President/COO
Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Chandler has more than 20 years of successful academic leadership and management experiences, having served as senior vice chancellor for academic affairs at UCSD, where she was the chief academic officer responsible for the policies and decisions relating to all academic programs, faculty appointments and performance, and as acting chancellor from 2003-2004. She holds an appointment as professor of political science in the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at UCSD.
A renowned scholar of political economy and comparative public policy, Chandler is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the highest academic honor bestowed in that country. She has authored five books and numerous journal articles and book chapters. She served as dean of arts and science at the University of Toronto.
Chandler has worked to advance women, particularly in science, where they are underrepresented. She oversaw the Gender Equity Initiatives, which assessed gender equity on campus and instituted policies to help women achieve promotions and serve in leadership roles. This included a campus-wide mentoring program whereby senior women faculty served as mentors in a confidential manner to women in departments other than their own.
Chandler increased the number of women on the Salk faculty by nearly 30 percent in the past year alone, a testament to her commitment to helping women achieve leadership roles. She provides support to approximately 870 research staff and 230 administrative personnel, and oversees all fund-raising activities.
Chandler is on the San Diego Opera board and has previously served on the board of directors of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation and the La Jolla Playhouse.
Joanne Chory, Ph.D.
Howard H. & Maryam R. Newman Chair in Plant Biology
Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Chory was the first woman to receive a chair at the Salk Institute and has become one of the world’s top plant biologists with her research providing the basis for better crop yields and the genetic knowledge needed to develop new medications. She co-led the efforts to sequence the genome of the model organism of plant biology, discovering plants have hormones that regulate their growth, just as humans do. Most recently, in collaboration with Salk biochemist Joseph Noel, she published a groundbreaking paper about how organisms control metabolic processes. Her advocacy of the value of researching a simple weed has led once again to a textbook-changing discovery.
A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Chory has been world-recognized for her pioneering work, winning more than a dozen major awards, including the L’Oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science. In 2011, she was named a foreign member of the Royal Society, honored as “a beacon of scientific excellence and relentless ambassador for plant research in the international community.” Chory has made San Diego the center for the plant biology field.
Chory plays a prominent role in Salk’s new Women in Science program, which inspires more women to embrace scientific research. She has mentored dozens of young women either directly in her lab or through active participation in professional societies and conferences. At plant biology conferences, she is the icon that young female scientists want to meet and is generous with her time to help.
Connolly serves as the chief executive officer of PathCentral. She brings to the table extensive experience in business management, finance, acquisitions and business development strategy, with a specialty in supporting the health care sector. Connolly is responsible for executive oversight of PathCentral Inc., a Web-based anatomic pathology and digital pathology IT solutions provider serving pathologists around the globe. In her 30-year career, Connolly has demonstrated leadership across a variety of roles at the intersection of finance and health care IT, diagnostic imaging, clinical laboratory, physician practice management and hospital services. Having served in executive management roles at six different publicly traded corporations before joining PathCentral, Connolly is no stranger to launching and guiding the financial growth of some of the industry’s most prominent medical technology providers. During her nearly three-decade career, she has led accretive acquisitions totaling more than $1 billion in revenue.
Connolly is a college adviser and mentor for young women. Throughout her career, she has been an advocate of equality, always hiring or promoting the right person for the right job. She possesses a savvy approach to business in general and motivates her employees through her energy, expectations, hardworking disposition, rewards and incentives.
Connolly serves as a board member and treasurer for Walden Family Services, a foster care agency. She has received the 2009 San Diego Business Journal CFO of the Year, 2010 San Diego Business Journal Most Admired CEO, 2010 Red Herring North America Award, 2010 ABBY Innovations in Healthcare IT Award, 2010 Healthcare Informatics 100 list and 2010 Inc. magazine 5000 list of the fastest-growing, private companies in America.
Senior Vice President/CFO
Althea Technologies Inc.
With an eye on success and a naturally mentoring nature, Demski has built a successful career while making significant contributions to the biotech industry. Her career spans finance and biotechnology and is grounded in a good education, strong goal setting, practical problem solving, continual networking, and courage in the face of new challenges.
Demski’s commitment to mentoring and advancing women is represented by her involvement with the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program, where she mentored her little sister from childhood to a degree in mathematics. Her dedication regarding the advancement of women is reflected in all aspects of Demski’s life, from her involvement with Athena to her support of women entrepreneurs. As one of the earliest members of Athena, she contributed to the mutual support among women in senior management within biotech and technology companies. She has often devoted her skills to assisting women in forming and funding their own biotech companies, including Althea. Demski also promotes women at the board level, and mentors women on the management team.
Demski has chaired the national ABFO group and led San Diego ABFO for three years. She previously served on the board of the San Diego Symphony, San Diego Venture Group, ACG and Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center. AT SKCC, she negotiated an intricate financial workout and was instrumental in the structuring and completion of a complex, successful sale to the Sanford Burnham Institute, enabling the preservation of the science, grants, and labs of over 100 employees in San Diego.
Senior Vice President, Operations, Diagnostics
Ellerbock has focused on marrying her passion for science with her strong organizational and people leadership skills. She has successfully developed strong teams while building and enhancing efficient operations within life sciences companies.
Ellerbrock has been at the forefront of moving businesses and operations, combining and training teams all without disrupting customers' critical supply chain of tools to perform their research studies or to diagnose disease where timing is critical. With more than 400 employees under her leadership, Ellerbrock leads her teams through these changes with a positive outlook. She arrives early, is accessible, and spends the time to develop her team, helping them create opportunities to excel, especially in taking risks and trying new things.
Ellerbrock mentors men and women, but the example of her success provides inspiration to the women. She focuses her attention to help these women understand their strengths, support them in taking risks, remove barriers and help them stretch.
Ellerbrock serves on the steering committee bringing the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) program from Hologic to Gen-Probe. She was an inaugural member of the Gen-Probe mentor program, which has been adopted by the WLI and is rolling out to Hologic’s more than 6,000 employees.
Ellerbrock has served on the advisory board of So Cal Chapter of Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) since 2011. She was a mentor in its pilot mentoring program. Currently, she is involved with a mentoring pilot pairing male and female executives to gain insights on cross-gender executive challenges.
Diane Goostree’s chemical engineering and MBA degrees, her desire for continual learning, and her willingness to take on new challenges laid the groundwork for her success in life sciences. Her experiences in research and development, marketing, sales, and business development positioned her for her role as a CEO. She is currently CEO of Intrepid Therapeutics, a dermatology drug development company that has one product in Phase 2 clinical trials and a second product nearing the clinic. She also serves as acting CEO for Scan Physics, an early stage medical device company developing a new imaging modality for breast cancer screening.
Goostree is a strong advocate for and mentor to women, encouraging them to take on new roles and responsibilities, even if it pushes their comfort zone. As an Athena board member, she was instrumental in building the executive ranks and ensuring that rising managers received the education and mentoring to excel. She has helped many women transition from scientific roles to management. As a board member of public and private companies, Goostree has been a key driver in expanding Athena’s On Board Series, ensuring women have the training they need to participate on boards.
Goostree is active in Biocom, serves as an EIR/adviser and frequent review panelist for early-stage life sciences companies with Connect’s Springboard program, served as chair of the San Diego Chapter of LES (Licensing Executive Society), was co-founder of BioHops-San Diego Biotech Business Development Networking Group, has been a panel judge for UCSD’s 50K Entrepreneurship Competition, and has served on screening and selection committees for Connect’s Most Innovative New Product awards and Capital Competition Events.
As founder/CEO of Ultimate Labs, a microbial testing company, Lim is pursuing her passion to help others live healthy lives. Early on, she developed an interest in medical product safety while earning a degree in bioengineering and gaining experience in pharmaceutical, therapeutic and medical device companies. As an inquisitive engineer with an MBA and expertise in microbiology and validation, Kim quickly identified customer frustrations with laboratory support services. She was driven to fill this gap and improve quality testing by founding Ultimate Labs. Kim has achieved success because she saw an unmet need not only in an area she had expertise in, but also in an area she is passionate about, which is helping to save lives.
Lim provides equal opportunities for all. Women comprise 64 percent of her employees and 50 percent of her leadership team. Women are empowered through key leadership positions in the areas of quality, operations and marketing. Lim helps to advance women in the workplace with one-on-one meetings where she provides mentorship on professional development and career advancement. She encourages and sponsors them to join professional organizations and attend training sessions.
Lim volunteers to teach math and physics in San Diego high schools and also leads Global Goodie, a nonprofit she founded that helps children understand global cuisine by designing and selling kids’ wear depicting cultural foods. Global Goodie donates all proceeds to foreign orphanages. Lim is an active member of Engineers Without Borders, where she participates in clean water projects to help improve the quality of life in developing communities.
Chairman and CEO
Lucier fosters a culture of excellence and innovation at Life Technologies, a global biotechnology company with a presence in more than 180 countries and sales of $3.8 billion in 2012. Ranked ninth among the world’s 50 most innovative companies, Life Technologies is a market leader in products and services that accelerate advancements in basic research and drug development, molecular diagnostics, 21st century forensics, regenerative science and agricultural research.
Today, he applies his more than 25 years of strategic management experience in his endeavor to change the face of health care and with a vision to see genomic-based medicine implemented to guide targeted treatments of human disease in the near future.
Lucier fosters a culture of inclusion and the empowerment of women. Under his leadership nearly nine years ago, the International Women’s Influential Network (IWIN), a women-led organization that creates opportunities for networking, mentoring, and leadership development for employees was formed. Lucier understands that as the life sciences industry becomes ever more competitive, it’s imperative that there’s strong, diverse leadership throughout the organization, and at all levels. In addition, Lucier invests in introducing biology and technology to local students -- from fifth graders who participate in Life Technologies’ InnovatioNation program through college students in the SDSU Guardian Scholar program.
Lucier is an active member of the San Diego community -- not only in the life sciences arena, but also with our local universities, government and nonprofit organizations. His board service extends to Biocom, Connect, Synthetic Genomics Inc., CareFusion, Rady Children’s Hospital and the California Healthcare Institute.
Davorka Messmer, Ph.D.
Assistant Director Biology
Messmer completed her master’s in Duesseldorf, Germany, and proceeded to earn a position to do her Ph.D. studies at the Rockefeller University in New York City in the laboratory of Nobel Prize winner Ralph Steinman. She was recruited to the Moores UCSD Cancer Center in 2004 to continue her research on cancer vaccines. Her work has consistently been recognized, earning her funding from the Department of Defense. Messmer has authored 45 scientific publications in the fields of immunology, oncology and cell biology, has more than 400 citations and collaborated with roughly 140 co-authors.
At Inception Sciences, she oversees the biological validation of novel cancer fighting drugs and leads their translational oncology programs.
Despite the high demands from her own scientific research and faculty responsibilities, she has personally mentored over a dozen undergraduate women, over half of whom have gone on to earn professional degrees. She was the research advisor for a female M.D./Ph.D. candidate who recently graduated.
Messmer invests significant time expanding opportunities for women in science through her personal contacts and opening doors wherever possible. She also continually supports professional organizations such as the Association for Women in Science, Women in Science and Technology and NanoTecNexus, a woman-led industry organization. While at UCSD, Messmer led the volunteer team of postdocs that created scientific content designed for kids to be used for education and demonstration at the San Diego Science Festival two years in a row in collaboration and support of a NanoTecNexus-hosted booth on nanotechnology.
Meyer has achieved success by leveraging her background in life sciences to parlay into new industries. Starting her career in large companies such as Sigma-Aldrich and Dow Chemical, she later moved to smaller, earlier-stage companies such as Hovione ranging in roles from Research Chemist to Director of Business Development. She has now applied her broad business background and technical depth to launch her own business -- Healthilocks, which incorporates her biotechnology-based invention for the cosmetology market. Meyer has utilized her strong network of mostly women to help develop new business. Healthilocks has eight employees, six of which are women.
Meyer enjoys acting as a sounding board to young women in the industry. Twice a year, she organizes intimate gatherings for women at her home, which serves as an enriching networking forum.
Meyer has served on numerous committees for the Association of Women In Science.
Athena Philis-Tsmikas, M.D.
Corporate Vice President - Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute,
For more than 20 years, Tsimikas has supported research and clinical efforts targeting diabetes assessment, education and management and has been responsible for major diabetes health care improvement initiatives that positively impacted our community. In 1997, she assisted in establishing the community-wide, nationally recognized diabetes program, Project Dulce, as its medical director. Tsimikas has dedicated her career to furthering diabetes care, research and education and guides the organization’s strategic direction and clinical focus, which includes: patient care and education provided by the Scripps Whittier Diabetes Program and Project Dulce; diabetes research; clinical trials; diabetes training programs for professionals; and diabetes prevention programs for children and their parents.
She serves as a leader on the Scripps executive team and in community support arenas helping to further the presence of women as leaders. She is an advocate for education for aspiring female physicians and serves as mentor and coach for the female members of Scripps’ medical teams.
Tsimikas has served as principal investigator of numerous NIH, sponsor and investigator-initiated clinical research trials. As the leader of the Community Engagement section of the Scripps-awarded Clinical Translational Science Award (CTSA), Tsimikas and Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute are actively promoting and training community physicians and community health.
Sandra Snook, D.V.M.
Senior Director, West Coast Site Head, Drug Safety Sciences
Janssen Research & Development
Snook has advanced to the senior ranks of one of Johnson & Johnson’s most innovative drug companies by upholding the highest standards of excellence in drug safety sciences. Her passion is drug development -- conducting the bench science and non-clinical studies that characterize the safety of novel medicines. She leads award-winning, global teams of experts to meticulously design and conduct studies that demonstrate to FDA and international regulators the safety of investigational drugs and whether they ultimately can be used by patients to fight disease.
Snook serves as a Senior Leadership Champion of Janssen’s La Jolla-based Diversity and Inclusion Council and is a member of the Global R&D Diversity and Inclusion Council. Snook mentors women scientists to become savvy navigators in a male-dominated organization and to promote them into senior roles at Janssen. Snook is also the de-facto Janssen expert on work/home balance. Having spent most of her career as the single mother of seven children -- four adopted internationally and one fostered locally -- she is an informal counselor to employees who wrestle with professional and personal demands.
Snook’s leadership has been recognized within J&J and she was a J&J Volunteer Spirit Grant Recipient in 2004 in recognition of her prolonged involvement. She designated the $5,000 award to the African Cradle Heritage Camps and played a lead role in establishing and organizing a camp for families with adopted Ethiopian children.
Snook maintains membership in several professional societies, including the American College of Veterinary Pathologists, Society of Toxicological Pathology and American Veterinary Medical Association.
Linda Strause, Ph.D.
Executive Director/Head, Clinical Operations
Strause brings a 360 degree perspective to the drug development industry, having served as a principal investigator, a senior level manager with a global contract research organization, as a vice president with a site management company, in senior level positions within the biotechnology industry, and as founding chair of an independent hospice and palliative care IRB (research ethics committee). She has worked in the pharmaceutical development industry for more than 25 years and has held senior positions in a variety of functional areas. Strause is executive director and head of clinical operations for Vical Inc.
Strause has helped advance women professionally, educationally and personally. In addition to mentoring female co-workers during her career, Strause is helping launch a local chapter of Women in Bio and is also organizing the young women’s mentorship program to help young women explore careers in the sciences. Through teaching her Introduction to Human Nutrition class at UCSD, Strause counsels students about their futures and frequently helps her female students understand how they can “have it all,” a question she is often asked.
After losing her husband to brain cancer, Strause has helped women with loved ones facing a life-threatening condition through her work as chairwoman of Soul Sitters, which provides support to the dying.
Her many contributions to the community include: founding chair/director of education & research, IRB; board of trustees Association of Clinical Research Professionals; medical advisory board, Glenner Memory Centers; Center for Health; advisory board, Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participants.
Kristiina Vuori, M.D., Ph.D.
President/Interim CEO; Professor and Director, NCI-designated Cancer Center; Pauline and Stanley Foster Presidential Chair; Jeanne and Gary Herberger Leadership Chair in Cancer Research; Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute
Vuori is well-regarded in the area of cancer metastasis. She is one of eight women who lead the 67 cancer research centers in the nation. She not only directs the Cancer Center at Sanford-Burnham, but also serves as the Institute’s president and interim CEO — a distinction she alone holds. And she wears all these leadership hats while running her own laboratory.
She earned her M.D. and Ph.D. in Finland, her home country. At one point, she almost became a professional tennis player. Instead, she came to Sanford-Burnham for postdoctoral training in 1992.
From Day One, Vuori distinguished herself as a scientist and leader. She’s known for her tireless work ethic and calm demeanor. When Sanford-Burnham’s Cancer Center was up for NCI renewal in 2010, Vuori’s leadership earned it the highest rating of “outstanding” and an unprecedented funding increase. Overall, she’s helped Sanford-Burnham grow from a single site with about 700 employees into a bicoastal operation with 1,200 employees, five research centers, and the most advanced drug discovery program in the academic world.
Institute president and now interim CEO, Vuori has encouraged, mentored and promoted women to leadership positions. Today, more than half of Sanford-Burnham’s administrative leadership team is made up of women.
Vuori leads the Continuing Umbrella for Research Experiences (CURE) science enrichment program, collaboration between Sanford-Burnham and The Preuss School UCSD. She mentors and trains minority and low-income students as they progress from high school to graduate school programs in cancer research.
In her current role at Pfizer as development director, White establishes and leads the implementation of strategic program plans for the development of therapeutic vaccines and for innovative treatments for retinal diseases. She is recognized for her expertise in strategic planning, but actually started her career as a chemist working in pharmaceutical research. White’s leadership potential was recently recognized when she was selected to represent Pfizer in its flagship corporate social responsibility program, Global Health Fellows, which gave her the opportunity to spend three months in Uganda developing a five-year strategic plan for an African nonprofit center for excellence in HIV research.
White is passionate about mentoring women in science and technology. She has mentored several Athena FEW groups and serves as a mentor in Pfizer’s formal online Mentoring program. White is seen by many women as the go-to person from whom to seek advice and informal mentorship about career development, transitioning into industry and dealing with mid-career challenges. White mentors women in San Diego, as well as women in Japan, Uganda and India via Skype. She is sought-after as a speaker on alternative careers in science and has spoken at events for graduate students at UCSD, young girls at Expanding your Horizons and events organized by the Association for Women in Science. She participates in Pfizer’s La Jolla Women’s Steering Committee, where she organizes and speaks at events targeted at professional development of Pfizer women scientists. In 2012, she published her first novel “Daughters’ Dilemma” which explores the choices women make between career and family.