Katrine Bosley – Top 10 Women in Biotech

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Katrine Bosley, CEO of Avila Therapeutics Name: Katrine Bosley
Current Company: Avila Therapeutics
Title: CEO

Profile: Katrine Bosley is the first CEO of Waltham, MA-based start-up Avila Therapeutics. Prior to joining Avila, Bosley served as vice president of business development and vice president of strategic operations at Adnexus Therapeutics. She has also held positions at Biogen Idec, Alkermes and venture capital firm Highland Capital Partners.

This Cornell graduate came up through the money side of the business, with stints in BD as well as venture capital. But her present and future ride on the science of covalent drugs, part of a trend that aims at a new generation of more powerful, better targeted therapeutics. Avila is developing protein silencing therapeutics with a platform technology that could offer a slate of best-in-class therapies--and Bosley has proved that a biotech with the right kind of science can start striking deals at a very early stage.

Avila and Bosley recently teamed with the Clovis Oncology crew in a $209 million pact for non-small cell lung cancer. Bosley has also put her BD skills to good use with the venture crew, attracting a $30 million Series B last year from an A-list of biotech investors and inking a $200 million option with Novartis Option Fund on another covalent drug program. The pair of deals left Avila pointed straight to the clinic, where it can start gathering the kind of data that Bosley will need for more deal-making in the years to come.

1. What advice would you give to women just starting out in biotech?

Taking chances is central to a career in biotech, because innovation and risk are so intertwined. Creating new medicines is all about not accepting the status quo; so risk taking is a trait to embrace in a biotech career.

There's also an important step beyond risk taking, which is taking ownership for the results. Inherent in innovation is that things don't always work out. Successful leaders in biotech own the results and are open to the feedback that builds value in their products and companies as well as in their careers.

2. What do you think has contributed to your success in this industry?

From the earliest stages of my career, I found myself pursuing an unconventional path. After my academic training in biology, most of my classmates were going to medical school or pursuing a career in academic research, and I was the only one trying to find a job in biotech. 

In taking a road less traveled, at multiple points in my career I've been fortunate to be able to join young companies with new technologies. Today I'm heading up a young company, Avila Therapeutics, and we're pioneering a new class of drugs called targeted covalent drugs. I had previous roles at Adnexus leading to the acquisition by BMS, and at Alkermes when it was less than 30 people and a private company. At the early stages of each of these companies, there was a vision and resources for new drug innovation that opened doors for taking on new responsibilities and making an impact.

Given the complexities of discovering, developing and commercializing new medicines, I've found that seeking a variety of experiences and perspectives has been critical to both leading and to being an effective team member. Through the course of my career, I've had a fairly wide variety of role--in business development, in regulatory affairs, in venture capital, in both large and small companies, in Europe and in the US...all of which are experiences I draw upon today.

It's really a mosiac of entrepreneurial risk-taking, seeking out different perspectives and a passion for new drug innovation that makes for an exciting career in biotech.