Celebrating Women in our sector for International Women’s day

This Sunday is International Women’s day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

To coincide with this day the BIA hosted the first Women in Biotech event of the year on Wednesday in London. BIA’s Women in Biotech events have been running for over 12 years. This year the events are supported by Bird & Bird and continue with their aim to connect, inspire, and support women across the sector. The events are open to all genders, as well as both BIA members and non-members.

Over the coming year we will be featuring #WomeninBiotech across our social media platforms. This past week we caught up with two women who have played a significant role within both the BIA and the wider scientific community: the current chair of our board, Ruth McKernan, and our previous chair, Jane Osbourn.

Ruth McKernan CBE

Venture Partner with SV Health Investors and the Dementia Discovery Fund, Chair of AstronauTx, Chair of the BIA, Trustee for ARUK.

Ruth joined Innovate UK as Chief Executive in May 2015. Ruth has 25 years of research and commercial experience in the pharmaceutical industry, including heading up research units in the UK and the US. She is a member of the Science, Industry and Translation Committee of the Royal Society and was a Council Member for the Medical Research Council for 5 years. Ruth’s previous roles include Senior Vice President at Pfizer and Head of the Merck Neuroscience Research Centre.

Ruth’s awards and achievements include a CBE in 2013 for services to Business, Innovation and Skills, a Fulbright Scholarship and a Glaxo/ABSW Science Writers’ Award. Ruth is the author of a book for non-scientists, “Billy’s Halo”.

What do you wish you had learnt sooner in your professional life?

To worry less about what people think of me and definitely not to factor that into my decision-making. Instead, listen to all views and then make the best decision dispassionately based on the evidence. Listen carefully before speaking…actually I’m still working on that one. 

Which skills have you found key to reaching your professional goals?

To keep abreast of new technology and consider how it could benefit my job and business.  In the last decade I’ve enjoyed seeing where cell therapy can take the bioscience industries and now I’m excited by the benefits of digital technologies and digital therapeutics.


Jane Osbourn OBE

Chair, Mogrify and CSO, Alchemab

Jane has over 30 years of experience in biologics discovery and development. Most recently, she was Vice President for R&D and Site Leader at MedImmune (AstraZeneca), formerly Cambridge Antibody Technology (CAT), where she contributed to the development of phage display technology.

Jane is a scientific leader in the field of antibody engineering, and has made a significant contribution to the discovery and development of 8 marketed drugs and over 40 clinical candidates. Jane served as Chair of the Board of Directors of the BioIndustry Association for the past four years. She was awarded Scrip’s Lifetime Achievement Award and an OBE in 2019 for services to drug discovery, development and biotechnology.

What is the best advice you’ve been given?

When I was a child my father used to tell my sister and I that you should never complain about a difficult situation, instead you should ask for guidance to help solve it. These are very wise words can be the key to great pro-activity and teamwork.

How do you stay motivated on a difficult day at work?

I am very fortunate in that over the years I have heard many amazing stories from patients who have benefited from the medicines we have made at Cambridge Antibody Technology / MedImmune / AZ. Whenever things get challenging the best way I find to keep motivated is to think about the patients' needs and the responsibility we have to work quickly and effectively to help them.


Upcoming BIA Women in Biotech events 2020: 

04 June      Women in Biotech – Oxford

24 Sept      Women in Biotech – Cambridge

04 Nov       Women in Biotech – Manchester