Top 10 female CEOs leading innovation in the life science industry

Monique Ellis our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 05/12/2018

Talented female leaders are continuing to emerge in the most prominent spaces within life sciences. Some are running global life science companies while others are founding innovative start-ups. But all are tackling today’s biggest healthcare challenges head on.

While we’re pleased to say that this list is not exhaustive, here’s some of the most outstanding examples of women in science leading the way. 

Read about even more exceptional women in our Women in Science series - including other life science female leaders and female scientists.

Health tech

Anne Wojcicki

Anne Wojcicki is the co-founder (with another woman - Linda Avery) and current CEO of 23andMe. The genomics and biotechnology company produces DNA testing kits to help people discover their ancestry and understand how their personal genetics impact their life. Anne’s company is leading in the genomics space as more and more emphasis is put on tailoring healthcare solutions to each individual.

Before co-founding the company, Anne received a BSc in Biology from the University of California and soon became a successful healthcare analyst at PassPort Analysis and Andor Capital Management.

Rachel Haurwitz

Rachel Haurwitz has been the CEO of Caribou Biosciences since it was established by the co-discoverer of the CRISPR technology, Jennifer Doudna, in 2011. CRISPR is a gene editing system that is one of the most technologically advanced medical breakthroughs of the decade. Rachel is also the co-founder of Intellia Therapeutics, another company exploring the potential of CRISPR. Intellia is a rapidly developing company, having partnered with pharma giants Novartis and Regeneron.

Rachel has a BSc in Biological Science from Harvard and gained her PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California.

Mary Pat Moyer

Co-founder and current chief science officer and CEO of INCELL, Mary Pat Moyer is breaking new ground in the field of personalised medicine. The company develops HCT/P cells and tissues, sterile fill products and other medical devices which aims to bring us closer to cell-based, personalised therapies for cancer, regenerative medicine and various diseases.

Before co-founding INCELL, Mary gained her PhD in Microbiology from the University of Texas and later worked there as a professor and Research Division Head of the Surgery department.


Maria Fardis

Maria Fardis is CEO of Iovance Biotherapeutics, a biotechnology company developing cutting-edge immunotherapies, mostly CAR-T. The company focuses on the adoptive T-cell therapy approach and has already had some promising phase II results, with a good percentage of patients achieving positive response to the treatment in neck and cervical cancer.

Maria has a Bsc in Organic Chemistry, a PhD in Organic Chemistry and an MBA from Golden State University. Before gaining the top spot at Iovance, Mari was the chief operating officer at Acerta Pharma and the chief of oncology operations and alliances at Pharmacyclics.

Martine Rothblatt

Following her daughter’s diagnosis of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a condition that affects the blood vessels supplying the lungs, Martine Rothblatt founded United Therapeutics. The biotechnology company specialises in developing products to help patients with chronic and life-threatening lung conditions, as well as cardiovascular and pulmonary disease, pediatric cancer and orphan diseases. Their ultimate purpose is to supply ‘unlimited’ transplantable organs to combat unmet need for these life saving operations.

Martine had a career previously as a satellite regulatory attorney, which had also led to her co-founding companies Sirius Satellite Radio and WorldSpace.

Britt Melby Jensen

Britt Melby Jensen is president and CEO of Zealand Pharma, a biopharmaceutical company based in Denmark. The company focuses on producing specialty medicines for metabolic and gastrointestinal disease, partnering with other giants like Sanofi and Boehringer Ingelheim. It has a particular focus on developing medicines for patients with rare and orphan diseases, a major area of unmet medical need.

Previously, Britt was the CEO of Danish diagnostics company, Dako. She has a MsC from Copenhagen Business School and an MBA from Solvay Business School in Brussels.

Medical devices/Diagnostics

Tina Nova

Tina Nova is current CEO of Molecular Stethoscope, an early-stage diagnostics company. The company aims to use their technology to detect serious forms of disease at the earliest possible stage without using invasive diagnostic procedures. mRNA is a genetic code and largely unexplored bio-marker that has huge potential in treating cardiometabolic and inflammatory disease.

Tina has a history of C-suite positions, as she co-founded and was CEO of Genoptix until it was acquired by Novartis in 2011. She is also the co-founder and previous president and chief operating officer of Nanogen.

Deborah Dunsire

Deborah Dunsire is the CEO of the health diagnostics company, XTuit Pharmaceuticals since 2017. The company develops pharmaceutical preparations that aid the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and inflammatory disease.

Before leading XTuit, Deborah was the CEO of FORUM Pharmaceuticals and also Millennium Pharmaceuticals, before its acquisition by Takeda in 2008. She is also a board member of Alexion Pharmaceuticals and Ultragenyx.

Global leadership

Heather Bresch

Heather Bresch made headlines as the first women in biopharma to run a Fortune 500 company when she accepted the role of CEO at Mylan in 2012. The company is a generic and specialty pharma, focusing on giving access to patients worldwide particularly in areas of unmet medical need.

Heather began at the company in 1992 as a clerk and within 20 years she was the boss! She was behind the integration of the acquisitions of Matrix Laboratories and Merck KGaA, which is Merck’s generics business.

Emma Walmsley

Emma Walmsley, CEO of GSK, is one of the most celebrated women in science today as she is the very first to lead a top 10 pharmaceutical company. In 2018, Emma was top of the list in Fortune’s Magazine’s ‘Most Powerful International Women’ in business.

Before accepting the top spot in early 2017, Emma was the CEO of GSK Consumer Healthcare, the joint venture between GSK and Novartis. She also sits on GSK’s executive board.

If you’re a passionate life science professional looking to reach the heights of these inspiring women in science, Proclinical recruits for many leading pharmaceutical companies that are looking to hire the next female leaders of the life science industry. See our website for current executive opportunities that will kick-start your journey to the C-Suite.