Women in life sciences celebration draws more than 440 leaders

AusBiotech and Medicines Australia are joining forces to host more than 440 guests at the annual Women in Life Sciences Luncheon on 6 March 2020, in advance of International Women’s Day. Co-hosted by Lorraine Chiroiu, CEO, AusBiotech, and Elizabeth de Somer, CEO, Medicines Australia, the luncheon seeks to encourage, support and further develop women in the sector.

The issue of women’s equality is not new, and the approach to addressing it needs to continue to evolve. This year’s theme, inspire, influence, involve, conveys a movement that is beyond gender, and increasing the number of female leaders in senior positions in life sciences is a conversation everyone should be participating in.

The Women in Life Sciences Luncheon provides a forum for leaders to gather and support each other in their careers within the life sciences sector, to achieve a more equal standing.

Kirsten O’Doherty, former ANZ General Manager, AbbVie, will open the luncheon as the keynote speaker, followed by a panel of six distinguished panellists who will share how they have inspired, influenced, and involved others in their push for progress.

Ms Lorraine Chiroiu, CEO AusBiotech, says “It is an exciting time in history. Standing on the shoulders of inspirational leaders, the world now expects gender balance and notices its absence. Today’s luncheon is an important platform that unites the life sciences sector, and I hope will inspire all leaders to push harder to make the workplace each for equal.”

Ms Elizabeth de Somer, CEO of Medicines Australia said: “The Pharmaceutical industry is committed to creating an environment that empowers and enables women to reach the highest levels – this is reflected in the composition of female talent at senior management within our sector. Although there is good work being done, gender inequality remains, and we must continue to address it.

“Today’s event as part of the wider international women’s day movement highlights the need for continued advocacy and inclusive mindsets which and translating this to tangible workplace actions.”

Keynote speaker:

Kirsten O’Doherty, Former ANZ General Manager, AbbVie

Kirsten has recently retired from her role as the ANZ General Manager of biopharmaceutical company, AbbVie where she led a team of 300+ staff across Australia and New Zealand.

Originally qualified and working as a hospital pharmacist, Kirsten’s career has subsequently spanned 30 years in the Australian pharmaceutical industry. Kirsten was a Board member of the pharmaceutical industry association, Medicines Australia for eight years until 2019, and during this time she co-founded the Pharma Australia Inclusion Group (PAIG), the industry’s first diversity and inclusion initiative. In recognition of her commitment to advancing workplace gender equality, Kirsten is listed as a Pay Equity Ambassador with the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

Panellists leads and co-hosts:

Lorraine Chiroiu, Chief Executive Officer, AusBiotech

Lorraine leads AusBiotech as its Chief Executive Officer and managing director and works as a dedicated advocate for the biotechnology sector. She works closely with public policy impacting the life sciences sector at state and Federal levels, including economic development, tax incentives, patent protection, medical research and its commercialisation.

Elizabeth de Somer, Chief Executive Officer, Medicines Australia

Elizabeth de Somer has over 20 years’ experience in health care and pharmaceutical health policy. Elizabeth also contributes her clinical and industry expertise to a number of expert committees providing advice to Government, including representing the industry on the sub-committees to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC).


Manuri Gunawardena, Founder and CEO – HealthMatch, Forbes 30 under 30 Class of 2019: Featured Honouree in Healthcare and Sciences

Manuri is the Founder and CEO at HealthMatch, an online platform that connects patients to relevant clinical trials to provide greater access to new treatments and accelerate medical research. Manuri is a passionate advocate for women in STEM, with interest in bringing clinical data and digital technologies to improve the inefficiencies in delivering better healthcare.

Associate Professor Muireann Irish, ARC Future Fellow and Associate Professor of Psychology, School of Psychology and Brain & Mind Centre, The University of Sydney

Muireann’s research focus is the cognitive neuroscience of memory. Ultimately, she hopes her research will inform the development of new interventions to improve quality of life and wellbeing in dementia. She is committed to the promotion and retention of women in science through her ‘Superstars of STEM’ activities to provide positive role models to young girls to pursue a career in science. Most recently, Muireann was named as one of the inaugural “STEM Changemakers” by the Australian Academy of Science.

Dr Sarah McDonald, CEO, Baymatob Operations Pty Ltd

Dr Sarah McDonald is a mechatronic engineer, founder and CEO of Baymatob™. She started working in the obstetric technology space after the traumatic birth of her second child, Oliver. Determined to improve the technology available for obstetric monitoring, Sarah’s PhD research resulted in the development of Oli™, an innovative non-invasive device to monitor pregnancy and labor progression. Sarah has successfully led the company to obtain over $4.7M non-dilutive funds and a range of awards.

Julie Phillips,CEO and Executive Director, BioDiem Ltd

Julie Phillips has been a passionate and vocal advocate for the biotechnology sector and the opportunity it poses for Australia, and was Chair of AusBiotech 2014-2020. Following a stint as a clinical pharmacist in major Sydney teaching hospitals, Julie moved to ‘big pharma’ and spent more than 15 years working in regulatory affairs, clinical trials and pharmacoeconomics, where she was involved in the industry’s input into Australia’s ‘world first’ cost-effectiveness guidelines to support pricing applications to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Julie is a co-inventor on two patents currently being commercialised.

Dr Dharmica Mistry, Co-founder and Scientific Advisor, BCAL Diagnostics/MedTech Program Manager, Cicada Innovations

Dr Dharmica Mistry is Co-founder and Scientific Advisor at BCAL Diagnostics, a small Australian biotech company developing a revolutionary blood test for the detection of breast cancer. She is also Medtech Program Manager at Australia’s deep tech incubator, Cicada Innovations, where she is mentoring other researchers to commercialise their impactful ideas. She has transitioned from bench to boardroom and found that translational research and medicine to be the best way to have an impact and make a difference.

Michael Azrak, Vice President and Managing Director Australia and New Zealand, MSD

With an MSD career spanning more than 15 years across four continents, Michael is a globally experienced, values-driven business leader. He was appointed Vice President and Managing Director, Australia & New Zealand, MSD, in June 2018. Michael is the sponsor of Diversity & Inclusion for MSD Australia and New Zealand, leading the Diversity Council and the Reconciliation Action Plan. He is also a WGEA Pay Equity Ambassador.

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