Adriana Karaboutis, Biogen

Adriana Karaboutis
She's leading the biotech's charge into med tech

Company: Biogen
Title: Executive Vice President of Technology, Business Solutions and Public Affairs

Adriana Karaboutis is spearheading Biogen's ($BIIB) foray into med tech. The biotech player wants to deploy wearable, and possible even ingestible, devices to collect Big Data.

Karaboutis believes that such devices can improve clinical trials, which is one of the reasons the former Dell CIO was brought aboard by CEO George Scangos in September 2014. He said in a company video that wearables are going to "transform the way we do clinical trials."

"We are at the forefront of asking 'What can these devices tell us versus what still needs to evolve," Karaboutis said in an interview. "I'm very proud that Biogen has seen that as a competitive advantage."

For example, Biogen thinks ​measurements​ from a wearable device could replace the 25-minute walk tests in trials on multiple sclerosis, a therapeutic area that the company knows a lot about thanks to its blockbuster medicine, Tecfidera.

The woman in med tech said she's enjoying her new role because it is more externally focused than being a CIO. She touted Biogen's partnership with Google Life Sciences to collect and analyze mountains of data to determine why the disease progresses faster in some patients than in others.

Indeed, another part of her role is promoting the use of Big Data. To that end, Karaboutis said she is overseeing the creation of a "data lake" that integrates all of the internal information with supplemental sources like PubMed citations. Curating Big Data and extracting insights from it is a science in and of itself, she said.

Don't be fooled by the lack of a "C" in Karaboutis' new title. Biogen CIO Matt Griffiths reports to her. In fact, she's one of only two women on the executive leadership team. And her role at Biogen was recently expanded to include oversight of public affairs following a company-wide reorg.  

Prior to Dell, Karaboutis worked at Ford, ending her tenure there as executive director and labor relations information officer in 2009, 20 years after joining the company as a programmer/analyst. Now she serves on the board of directors of Advance Auto Parts.

To prepare for the new industry and role at Biogen, Karaboutis took classes in biotechnology and finance. "My professional thesis has always been professional athleticism centered around technology," she said.

She advises women to "roll up their sleeves" and focus on the tasks at hand, saying "sometimes it's our own selves that get in the way and say 'it is too hard.'"

-- Varun Saxena (email | Twitter)

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Adriana Karaboutis, Biogen