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10 Top Women in Biotech 2012

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Dr. Lynn Seely of Medivation ($MDVN) is spearheading the team that took Xtandi, a likely blockbuster for prostate cancer patients, all the way through the clinic to a first approval. At 23andMe, Anne Wojcicki aims to "connect" patients with genetic information that can help them take control of their own health. And Dr. Michelle Dipp of OvaScience wants to revolutionize the treatment of female infertility.

FierceBiotech's "10 Top Women in Biotech" honorees this year are top innovators in life sciences. Too few female professionals rise to senior executive roles in the biopharma industry, making the accomplishments of these women all the more exceptional.

Led by our managing editor, Jennifer Levin, we began seeking nominations from respected industry leaders for this report around the time of the BIO International Convention in June. Phyllis Dillinger, president and chairwoman of Women in Bio, was hugely helpful. Then this fall we solicited online nominations from our readers. As a result, we feel this report spotlights truly deserving women in biotech with diverse backgrounds and jobs in the industry.

That said, these aren't meant to be fluff pieces. Biotech is a tough business. And we wanted each of our profiles to underscore the great challenges and opportunities in bringing new therapies to patients. The professionals featured here have also shared, through their insights and actions, lessons in how women--and men, too--can navigate the twists and turns of their journeys to the top levels of the industry.

Each of these women has been inspired and advised by others before them, and several cited the ability and willingness to surround themselves with strong mentors and to pass on their knowledge to others. Paula Brown Stafford, president of clinical development at Quintiles, spends much of her time serving as an adviser to others. And as Andrea Pfeifer of AC Immune (a 2012 Fierce 15 company) put it, as a woman in a position of power in this industry, "you become a little bit of a model for young people."

As you'll gather in reading this report, we've featured standouts from small biotechs (which have been strongly represented in the three years we've done this report), Big Pharma, and for the first time this year, contract research organizations. The service providers have become increasingly important to drug development as pharma and biotech companies seek partnerships with CROs to conduct R&D efficiently and intelligently.

Each of these women in biotech we've chosen to feature is exceptional in part because of the unique challenges faced by all women in the industry. Deborah Tanner of Covance told FierceBiotech that the most inspirational woman she remembered from her career was incredibly and, Tanner thought, unfairly tough on her. When Tanner eventually brought this up, the woman looked at her, taken aback, and said: "You're going to be the only woman at the table for a long time. You need to do what you do better than anyone else."

Enjoy the report and feel free to send us your ideas about other women in the industry to feature next year. -- John Carroll (email | Twitter) | Ryan McBride (email | Twitter) | Jennifer Levin (email | Twitter)