Recognizing 5 Women Entrepreneurs of the Medical and Pharmaceutical Industries

Posted by Chad Birt on Aug 20, 2020 10:39:04 AM
Chad Birt

In January 2017, our founder, Ann Conner, established Harbor Clinical as a woman-owned business. Two years later, in January 2019, we were certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). WBENC is America’s largest certifier of women-owned businesses and a leading advocate for women business owners and entrepreneurs.


Over the course of the last few years, women-owned businesses have experienced significant growth. A 2019 report commissioned by American Express found that:


  • America is home to more than 13 million women-owned businesses
  • Women-owned businesses employ more than 9.4 million people
  • Each year, women-owned businesses generate more than 1.9 trillion USD in sales
  • 4 million businesses are majority-owned by women of color


The pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device industries play an important role in these efforts. Since we work with a number of businesses in these fields, we thought it would be fun to highlight five women entrepreneurs who are leading the way.


  • Lea von Bidder - CEO and Co-founder of Ava


Lea von Bidder founded Ava, a medical technology company, in 2016. Ava manufactures a product called the Ava Bracelet which helps women track their fertility cycles. Since its launch, the Ava Bracelet has helped more than 30,000 couples in the United States and Europe conceive.


The Ava Bracelet is unique in that women only need to wear it during sleep. The technology provides real-time information about fertility and general health, making it easier to get pregnant. Lea isn’t one to stay complacent, though. She recently told CNBC that the company is using its device to improve medical research.


Scientists and medical experts throughout Europe are using the multi-sensory bracelet to monitor COVID-19 patients, detect changes in specific cross-sections of society, and more.


  • Angela Hwang - Group President, Biopharmaceuticals Group, Pfizer


As a member of the Executive Leadership Team at Pfizer, Angela Hwang oversees an organization of over 26,000 people responsible for a portfolio of more than 600 products. Hwang is an innovative leader having recently launched a podcast called “Diverse Perspectives” featuring global thought leaders who are pioneering change across a variety of industries.

Having been named to Crain’s Notable Women in Healthcare list last year, Hwang was more recently appointed to UPS’ Board of Directors in July, 2020.


  • Joanne Smith-Farrell, Ph.D. - Chief Business Officer of bluebird bio


With experience running the gamut from a lab assistant to a leader in large pharma, Joanne Smith-Farrell joined the bluebird bio C-suite in May, 2019. In this role, she’s led bluebird’s oncology program to include a pipeline of 12 candidates. A humble and inspiring leader, Smith-Farrell names Mother Teresa as one of her female role models, recognizing that there were too few female role models available in her professional career.



  • Sherry Bale - Co-founder of GeneDx


For more than 20 years, GeneDx has been a global leader in genomics and patient testing. With a focus on rare and ultra-rare genetic disorders, Dr. Bale’s work has helped people all across the United States (and the world) better understand their conditions through genetic sequencing and testing.


GeneDx was the first business to commercially offer Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) in a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) lab. Dr. Bale officially retired in 2016, but her work continues. She regularly collaborates with members of the medical and scientific communities developing newer and better genetic tests and screening capabilities.



Ashlyn Sanders became an entrepreneur by chance. Shortly after enrolling in medical school, she was diagnosed with a Chiari malformation. Following an emergency brain surgery, months of at-home recovery, and a grueling physical therapy regimen, Sanders had an idea –– develop a product that could prevent people from biting their tongues during a seizure.


Sanders completed her graduate degree and started brainstorming shortly thereafter. She developed the protector against tongue injury (PATI). PATI is currently in phase three of product development. In the next few months, it will undergo a human factors study, with FDA approval scheduled for some time in 2021.


Sanders hopes that PATI will assist the more than 3.4 million Americans living with epilepsy. The product’s patent-pending design prevents dislocation or dislodgement during an episode and allows for natural airflow. You can learn more about Ashlyn’s work in this profile from Black Enterprise.



The above is by no means an exhaustive list of women entrepreneurs in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industries. The Fierce Biotech’s 2019's Fiercest Women in Life Sciences recognized the growing number of women leaders in the industry and listed leaders from such prominent organizations as Boehringer Ingelheim, Johnson and Johnson, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Amgen, Merck, and more.



Who would you add to this list? Submit a comment below and let us know!

Topics: Pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, wbenc, WomeninBusiness

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