Abbie Celniker - FierceBiotech's 2011 Women in Biotech

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Abbie Celniker
Chief Executive Officer
Eleven Biotherapeutics


Abbie Celniker has landed back on startup turf at Eleven Biotherapeutics, where she was just named CEO in September. She's now bringing her two decades of experience in biotech drug development to complement the protein engineering hotshots on staff, and all have ambitious goals to advance new protein drugs to treat a slate of diseases such as dry eye. Money helps. So Celniker has also been busy talking to investors and working with the business team on partnering plans.

Celniker came to Eleven not long after a successful run at biotech startup Taligen Therapeutics. In about two and half years helming Taligen, Celniker led its transformation from a virtual company in Boulder, CO, to a growing group based in the Boston area with valuable programs in development for immune and inflammatory conditions. So much value, in fact, that Alexion Pharmaceuticals ($ALXN) paid up $111 million early this year to buy Taligen's key assets. Alexion made the startup its translational medicine group with Celniker in charge.

She's looked for leadership opportunities throughout her career. She started her career in biotech at Genentech right after getting her Ph.D. in molecular biology, and she has worked her way up the chain of executive command at the Genetics Institute unit of Wyeth and Millennium Pharmaceuticals before becoming global head of biologics at Novartis. For Celniker, leadership means mentoring others, too. In addition to aiding others at her companies, she's coached youth soccer and now serves on the boards of Mass Bio and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.

Celniker serves as a true role model for women who aim to excel in an industry run mostly by men. "I think that the potential interesting little extra that you get from speaking to some of the women in biotech is we've probably been challenged with thinking a little bit more about how to cultivate our careers," Celniker said. "As a result, we can be a tiny bit more self-reflective because we've had to do lots of course correction to make sure we could compete in the days when it was more predominately male. It's certainly balancing, but it's still a predominantly male field."