March 8th marks International Women's Day, and this year the theme is #BreaktheBias.
Since 2015 the number of women graduating in core STEM subjects in the UK has grown from 22,000 to almost 25,000, but in 2021 females still only made up 26% of those graduating in STEM subjects, and just 24% of the average STEM workforce – this figure drops to as low as 10% for some industries. With the #BreaktheBias theme in mind, we wanted to recognise the critical role women play in STEM industries through celebrating four pioneers within the life science industry that are transforming the medical landscape through leadership and technical innovation.
Carolyn Yarina, CEO and Co-Founder of Sisu Global Health
When a patient suffers internal bleeding, surgeons have two options; reach for a blood bag, or recycle the patient’s own blood using a process called autotransfusion. In many developing countries, though, lack of access to blood banks or a lack of blood donorship might mean the surgeon doesn’t have access to a blood bag, and the technology typically used for autotransfusion is expensive and requires power – a commodity not always available in emerging markets.
After founding a non-profit that supported mobile clinics in India, Carolyn went on to co-found Sisu Global Health, a company focused on the research, development and commercialisation of medical devices aimed at emerging markets. The Sisu-developed Hemafuse, a handheld medical device that replaces the need for donor blood by recycling a person’s own from internal bleeding, launched in Ethiopia, Kenya and Ghana in 2020.
Allysa Dittmar, President and Co-Founder of ClearMask
With over 95% of those living with hearing loss saying masks and facial coverings impact their ability to communicate, Allysa, who has been deaf herself since birth, set out to design a transparent mask with her fellow public health students at Johns Hopkins University and co-founded ClearMask LLC.
Allysa and the team at ClearMask have developed the first FDA-approved transparent face mask, allowing for the deaf and hard of hearing that would usually rely on lipreading for communication to do so clearly, without the obstruction a standard face mask would cause.
Dr. Crystal Icenhour, PhD, CEO and Co-Founder of Aperiomics
A rising star of American biotechnology, Dr. Crystal Icenhour holds two patents, has authored and co-authored numerous scientific publications and is a prolific speaker at many scientific conferences. In 2014 she co-founded Aperiomics, a bioinformatics firm that uses advanced data analysis and next-generation sequencing technology for detecting infectious disease.
Where traditional infection testing might look at one bacteria, fungus or virus at a time, DNA sequencing technology developed by Dr. Crystal’s firm can identify every known pathogen there is – that’s nearly 40,000 microorganisms – from within a single blood sample. It’s the mission of the infectious disease firm to transform infection testing, and leverage the power of technology to advance human life and quality of life.
Dr. Kimberly Smith, MD, MPH, Head of R&D at ViiV Healthcare
Dr. Kimberly Smith heads up research and development at the only company wholly dedicated to HIV therapies, ViiV Healthcare. During her time at ViiV Dr. Kimberly has launched more than 25 late-stage trials for seven new medicines, and is working to revolutionise the management of HIV through regimes that decrease the lifetime exposure to medicines by suffers of HIV.
Since working on the frontline of the AIDS epidemic as a clinician in the 1980s, Dr. Kimberly has made it her life work to answer the unmet needs of those living with the illness, and has been a public advocate for female and PoC representation in STEM professions and in exec level roles.