Three star scientists announce plan to solve biotech’s ‘missing women’ problem

January 29, 2020

The Boston Biotech Working Group, newly formed by three scientists either currently or formerly associated with Cambridge-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is circulating a pledge among local venture capital firms to address the gender imbalance in biotech, Stat reports.

Sangeeta Bhatia, MD, PhD, Susan Hockfield, PhD, and Nancy Hopkins, PhD, analyzed the hundreds of startups founded by MIT academics and found female founders were vastly underrepresented. They concluded that, had female MIT scientists founded startups at the same rates as their male counterparts, approximately 40 to 50 more companies would have been established, the majority of them in biotech.

To rectify this issue of the "40 missing companies," the trio started the working group. Their first initiative is the pledge, which has already been signed by five venture firms, including Polaris Partners and F-Prime Capital, Stat reports, who have promised "to do all in our power to ensure the boards of directors for companies where we hold positions of power are 25 percent female by the end of 2022."

The working group's future initiatives will include a "boot camp" for female biologists who are interested in launching their own companies or joining biotech boards and a proposal that academic leaders allow women on staff to have immersive externship-type experiences at venture firms.

"We hear from women and men that one reason for women not to [found companies] is that they haven't been part of the conversations that introduce them to the routes and the people that would make navigating that path possible," Dr. Hockfield told Stat. "The projects we propose have dual purpose: to introduce the VCs and board and [scientific advisory board] members to women who are ready to engage in entrepreneurship; and to give women the vocabulary and network necessary for their success."

You can read more about the effort here.

Additional press coverage at the Washington Post, Becker's, and Medical Daily.