RFS Briefings - June 28, 2019

We are pleased to include another issue of RFS Briefings with some timely and encouraging updates on women in science.

Of note in particular:

Time to End the Manel Tradition

In keeping with the findings of a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, “Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequence in Academic Science, Engineering, and Medicine,” Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, NIH Director, declares that “’it is time to end the tradition in science of all-male speaking panels, sometimes dryly referred to as ‘manels.’” Read more.

Rosalind Franklin Award Winner Announced

Reshma Shetty, founder, president and chief operating officer of Ginkgo Bioworks, will receive the Rosalind Franklin Award for Leadership in Industrial Biotechnology and Agriculture on July 10, 2019 at the BIO World Congress in Des Moines, Iowa. The award, now in its sixth year, is sponsored by the Rosalind Franklin Society. Dr. Shetty is being recognized for her many contributions to the important goal of using industrial biotech innovation to develop sustainable biobased value chains.  Read more.

See below for more news about women in science

Please continue to share important news and opportunities with us so that we may share it with you and others who are committed to supporting the careers of exceptional women in science.


With regards,

Karla Signature

Karla Shepard Rubinger
Executive Director
Rosalind Franklin Society

Women in the Healthcare Industry

Women in the Workplace, a collaborative initiative between Lean In and McKinsey, found that healthcare appears to be one of the best industries for working women. This finding is based on pipeline data from 33 healthcare companies, survey data from 10,848 employees at 11 healthcare companies, and interviews with 10 senior executives. The authors believe that while the research is focused in North America, the implications are relevant worldwide. Women, the primary consumers and decision makers in the healthcare market, account for nearly 50 percent of the workforce. While much of their advancement and leadership in the field is based on these facts, it is also true that women and especially women of color remain underrepresented in leadership positions across all levels. Read more.

$100,000 Hearst Health Prize for Excellence in Population Health

The Hearst Health Prize, in partnership with the Jefferson College of Population Health, is now accepting applications for the 2020 award, with a deadline of August 9, 2019. The prize recognizes outstanding achievement in managing or improving population health and showcases the work of an individual, group, or organization that has made a measurable difference in population health. The winner will receive a $100,000 prize, with $25,000 awarded to up to two finalists. Read more.

The Gender Gap in Computer Science Research Won’t Close for 100 Years

The Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence just released findings of a large-scale study that showed women will not likely reach gender parity in published computer science research in this century. This gap most likely reflects not only the low number of women currently in computer science, but a male bias among editors who manage scientific journals and conferences. In 2018, the number of male authors in the collection of computer science papers was 475,000 compared with 175,000 for women. Read more.

The Top Highest-Paid Women Executives in Biopharma

The need to diversify historically male executive suites and boardrooms has been addressed by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization in October 2019 by sending a letter to member companies demanding that they double their percentage of women holding senior management and leadership positions from 25% to 50%, and increase the percentages of women on their boards from 10% to 30%. In addition, then-Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a Senate Bill on September 30, 2018 – the first of its kind – mandating that every publicly-traded company headquartered in California must include at least one woman on its board, stipulating that as of December 31, 2021 the number will increase proportionately based on the size of the boards. GEN (Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News), has ranked top-paid women biopharma executives since 2013. Based on 2018 data, seven women commanded compensation of $10 million or more, compared with just a single eight-figure executive in 2013. Read more.

Gender Bias Continues in Recognition of Physicians and Nurses

A new study published online in the Journal of Women’s Health (May 19, 2019), “The Relationship Between Physician/Nurse Gender and Patients’ Correct Identification of Health Care Professional Roles in the Emergency Department,” has shown that patients are considerably more likely to correctly identify male physicians and female nurses, reflecting ongoing gender bias in the health care environment. The study, featured in a Press Release, also showed that these lingering perceptions may be slowly changing, with younger patients more likely to correctly identify female physicians and male nurses. The authors suggest that better recognition of physicians, whether male or female, could improve work satisfaction of female physicians, patient satisfaction, and patient adherence to medical treatments. Read more.

Ex-Chemistry Teacher Zhong Huijuan Poised to Become China’s Third-Richest Woman After Founding US$10.4 Billion Hansoh Pharmaceutical Group

Zhong Huijuan’s career switch from teacher to drugs has led to her US$7.9 billion fortune. As the founder of the Hansoh Pharmaceutical Group in 1995, China’s largest maker of psychotropic drugs, she holds a 68% stake in the company which recently went public. The company researches and produces drugs for six major therapeutic areas, with almost half its revenues from cancer treatments. Read more.

No More Female ‘Hidden Figures’ as NASA Renames Street

To honor black women who have contributed to the U.S. space program, NASA renamed the street block in front of its Washington, DC headquarters as “Hidden Figures Way.” The Oscar-nominated film, “Hidden Figures,” features the work of three black mathematicians at NASA during the 1960s race to the moon: Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. Less than 11% of the more than 500 people who have traveled to space have been women. Margot Lee Shetterly, the author of the book “Hidden Figures” that inspired the film said: “’Hidden Figures’ is about taking off our blinders and recognizing the contributions of the unseen individuals who were there at the beginning of the story.” Senator Ted Cruz, who cosponsored the bill to rename the block, sees the new street sign as an inspiration to girls and boys. Read more.

Congratulations to the 2019 Warren Alpert Distinguished Scholars

The Warren Alpert Foundation, a nonprofit providing grants for curing disease, groundbreaking research, scholarship, and service, announced its 2019 distinguished scholars, a recently established program that supports individual scientists of exceptional creativity. Candidates must have an MD or PHD degree and have completed at least 3 to 5 years of a post-doctoral fellowship in the basic neurosciences at a U.S. medical school. Three of this year’s winners are women: Yvette Wong, PhD, Northwestern University School of Medicine, “Neuronal Regulation of Mitochondria – Lysosome Contact Sites;” Emilie Reas, PhD, University of California San Diego – School of Medicine, “Identifying Brain Microstructure Markers of Memory Impairment in Early Alzheimer’s Disease;” and Nhat T. Le, PhD, Boston University School of Medicine, “Prion-Induced Synaptotoxic Pathways.” Details for next year’s award, $200,000 annually for two years, can be found on the Foundation’s website. Read more.

Time to End the Manel Tradition

In keeping with the findings of a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, “Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequence in Academic Science, Engineering, and Medicine,” Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, NIH Director, declares that “it is time to end the tradition in science of all-male speaking panels, sometimes wryly referred to as ‘manels.’” Women and members of groups underrepresented in science are visibly underrepresented in key speaking slots at scientific meetings and other high-level conferences, according to Collins. He vows to offer a “level playing field” when considering speaking invitations and challenges other scientific leaders across the biomedical field to do the same. Read more.

Three Created a Fertility Revolution with I.V.F., but One, a Woman, Went Unrecognized

Records made public on June 10, 2019 reveal that the two male developers of in vitro fertilization both recognized and named their female colleague Jean Purdy as an equal partner, but her work has remained largely unknown for 40 years. Ms. Purdy, a nurse and embryologist, worked with Dr. Robert Edwards on the in vitro effort. In papers released from the Archives of the University of Cambridge, where Dr. Edwards was a professor of physiology, Ms. Purdy is credited for her work by Edwards who said that she “’contributed as much as I did to the project.’” Since 1981, he reportedly argued for her equal recognition, though unsuccessfully. The archivist who catalogued Dr. Edward’s papers could not identify sexism as explicitly shown in the papers, but agreed that Ms. Purdy’s sex was likely one of several factors. Read more.

Schmidt Fund Awarded to Two Transformative Bioengineering Projects

The Eric and Wendy Schmidt Transformative Technology Fund, established in 2009, has given awards to two cross disciplinary teams in biology and engineering that aim to use 3D printing to revolutionize biomedical technologies. Through this fund, Princeton University is able to support research that addresses some of today’s greatest biomedical challenges, according to the dean for research. Celeste Nelson, professor of chemical and biological engineering, and principal investigator on one team, will aim to transform the creation of artificial organs using lessons learned from the stress-relieving squishy balls. Danielle Devenport, associate professor of molecular biology, and her team, will seek to build artificial living skin for wound healing and therapies as well as cosmetic and research needs. Read more.

Gender Stereotypes Banned in British Advertising

Guidelines for British advertising were established after a report from the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority found that gender-stereotypical imagery and rhetoric “’can lead to unequal gender outcomes in public and private aspects of people’s lives.’” Such ads include the following examples: men unable to change diapers and women having trouble parking, as well as ads that connect physical features with romantic or social success. Other countries namely, Belgium, France, Finland, Greece, Norway, South Africa, and India have similar guidelines. Companies are also addressing the problem of sexism in advertising, such as Unilever, Google, Johnson & Johnson, and Mars. Read more.

Harvard Business School Announces $10 Million Gift Renewal from the Blavatnik Family Foundation and Introduces 2019-2020 Blavatnik Fellowships in Life Science Entrepreneurship

The Harvard Business School has named the 2019-2020 Blavatnik Fellows in Life Science Entrepreneurship. Initially launched in 2013 as part of a $50 million gift to Harvard from the Blavatnik Family Foundation, an additional $10 million has been provided in 2019 to support the program through 2029. This unique program provides professional development in areas such as startup strategy, design thinking, intellectual property law, and entrepreneurial finance. Three of the five 2019-2020 fellows are women: Anu Atluru, MD, MBA, who started a medical technology venture, Safe-C, to reduce complications in high-risk cesarean section deliveries; Laura Kelley, MBA, currently founder of a cellular diagnostics company that uses deep learning technology developed in Ralph Weissleder’s lab; and, Rena Xu, MD, MBA, who will work on building a physician quality assessment tool to help patients make informed health care choices. Read more.

Maternity Leave Policies for Doctors-In-Training Vary Greatly Across the Nation

A study published online in Academic Medicine found that women who consider having a baby during their medical residencies, which demand 80-hour work weeks, often lack information about available maternity leave or how the decision could affect the remainder of their training. Based on data from 804 female residents representing 78 training programs at 6 U.S institutions, the average length of maternity leave was 6 weeks, varying by paid and unpaid leave. The authors conclude that the following are targets for intervention: policy clarification, improved program support, and consideration of parent wellness upon return to work. Read more.

Rosalind Franklin Award Winner Announced

Reshma Shetty, founder, president and chief operating officer of Ginkgo Bioworks, will receive the Rosalind Franklin Award for Leadership in Industrial Biotechnology and Agriculture on July 10 at the BIO World Congress in Des Moines, Iowa. The award, now in its sixth year, is sponsored by the Rosalind Franklin Society. Dr. Shetty is being recognized for her many contributions to the important goal of using industrial biotech innovation to develop sustainable biobased value chains. Since 2008, Ginkgo has built labs that leverage software and hardware automation to bring rapid iteration, prototyping, and scale to organism design and construction. Read more.

Frances Arnold Turns Microbes Into Living Factories

Dr. Arnold, a professor of chemical engineering at the California Institute of Technology, was the fifth woman to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, awarded in 2018, recently profiled in the New York Times. She was recognized for developing a technique called directed evolution, a means of generating a host of novel enzymes and other biomolecules that can be put to any number of uses, for example, detoxifying a chemical spill or even removing laundry stains in eco-friendly cold water. Unlike many protein chemists who seek to design new proteins piece by piece, the “Arnold approach” lets basic evolutionary algorithms do the work of protein composition and protein upgrades. Her mantra is “’Keep it simple, stupid.’” Read more.

It’s Taken 5 Decades to Get the Ph.D. Her Abusive Professor Denied Her

After three years completing coursework and preliminary exams for her Ph.D. in educational psychology, Marilyn Webb dropped out of her program back in 1967. She was sexually harassed first by one, and then by the second professor she asked to be on her dissertation committee. At the time, there was no “language for this, there was no Title IX, no administrator to report it to,” she said. Despite a successful career and “a great life” in her words, the #MeToo movement caused her to reflect on how her academic career had been cut short. She reached out to the president of the University of Chicago, Robert Zimmer, who believed her story. A new dissertation committee of two white women and a black man allowed Webb to submit as a dissertation a book she had written, with the addition of a new theoretical framework. In June, at the age of 76, Marilyn Web was awarded a Ph.D. The dean of social sciences describes this as “a victory.” Read more.

4 Women with Lives Scarred by Genital Cutting: Could a Surgeon Heal Them?

More than 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone genital cutting in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, with varying degrees of severity. The need for appropriate medical care is undeniable, yet little research exists on how surgeons can relieve the enduring physical harm or improve sexual sensation. Dr. Ivona Percec, a plastic surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania, regularly performs plastic surgery for these patients for medical or cosmetic reasons. However, she had never attempted clitoral reconstruction until one patient sought her out for medical help. With this operation in 2016, Dr. Percec joined a small but growing number of physicians worldwide performing clitoral reconstruction or restoration. The procedure is still viewed with caution by some medical experts, and WHO argues that sufficient evidence of safety and effectiveness is still lacking. Read more.

Voyager Spacecraft Steward Among Winners of Prestigious Hong Kong Prizes

Molecular biologist Maria Jasin, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, was among the winners of the Shaw Prize awarded by the Shaw Prize Foundation in Hong Kong. She received the life science and medicine award for her research on homologous recombination, a mechanism by which DNA repairs itself. This work has contributed to gene editing tools, including the CRISPR-Cas9 system. The Shaw prize, worth US$1.2M, is now in its 16th year. It recognizes scientists working in mathematical sciences, astronomy, and life sciences and medicine. Read more.

Tuuli Lappalainen, PhD, Receives Distinguished Faculty Award

Dr. Lappalainen, assistant professor of systems biology at Columbia University and core faculty member at the New York Genome Center, has received the Harold and Golden Lamport Research Award. This annual prize, given to junior faculty members that show promise in basic science or clinical science research, recognizes her ongoing research in functional genetic variation in human populations, and her work in elucidating the cellular mechanisms linked to genetic risk for various diseases and traits. Her group at the Genome Center and Columbia is highly collaborative and has made important contributions to several international research consortia in human genomics, including the Genotype Tissue Expression (GTEx) Project and TOPMed Consortium. Read more

Report Finds Only a Small Fraction of Academic Research is Authored by Women

A new report from Leiden University’s Centre for Science and Technology Studies shows that only 30 percent of academic research published between 2014 and 2017 in the UK was authored by women, reflecting just a slight increase from 2006 to 2009 when 26 percent of published research was authored by women. The findings also indicate that women’s work has been under-cited in nearly every field, especially in the natural sciences and engineering. To address this gender gap, the research team believes that academic journals need more women on editorial boards. Read more.

2019 Vilcek Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare

The Gold Foundation, in partnership with the Vilcek Foundation, created a new award recognizing immigrant contributions to humanism in American healthcare. The inaugural recipient, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, born in the UK to parents of Iraqi descent, received the award for research and activism that brought national attention to the led poisoning of children in Flint, Michigan, though the public water supply. Read more.

What Women in STEM Still Need

RFS board member Alice Huang, PhD, a microbiologist at Caltech, presented a talk to the Oneonta Club, South Pasadena, CA about Breaking Barriers for Women in STEM. The Club is known to have only male members. She addressed this audience as a female scientist who has had 50 years of experience trying to gain equality for women in science. Despite significant growth for women during that time, she argued that problems still exist in five areas: salary equity, marriage penalty, implicit bias, credit for work done, and sexual harassment. She asked the members of the Club for feedback on how to best approach these problems, promising that their input would be shared with the Rosalind Franklin Society at its upcoming meeting. Read more.

Helmsley Charitable Trust Grants UC San Diego $4.7M to Study Crohn’s Disease

Helmsley has awarded two grants to UC San Diego toward its goal to cure Crohn’s disease. Researchers at UCSD are at the forefront of developing innovative ideas that align with Helmsley’s focus on advancing precision medicine for Crohn’s patients. The largest grant of $3.5 million will focus on transforming Crohn’s disease therapeutics. Two female professors from UCSD’s School of Medicine will assemble a transdisciplinary team of cellular, molecular, and stem cell biologists along with computer science engineers, pathologists, and gastroenterologists: Pradipta Ghosh, professor and director of the Center for Network Medicine and Soumita Das, assistant professor, chief scientific officer and director of HUMANOID Center of Research Excellence. Read more.

What I Learned as a VC Filling In as a Startup CEO for 4 Months

Mia Hegazy who is a Principal at Catalyst Investors, a growth equity firm, was appointed interim CEO at one of its portfolio companies that had lost its CEO. Though Catalyst encourages companies to have a clear succession plan for the CEO, those with $10-50 million in revenue often do not have built-in successors. Hegazy, who had worked with the company since Catalyst’s original investment, took on this role without knowing what to expect. Her experience led to four takeaways that she hopes will benefit other investors: help CEOs and management teams establish a clear operating and communication strategy; work with companies to develop a data strategy and a culture of data-driven decision making; spend time with the broader organization as well as the management team; and encourage management teams to create straightforward, easy to replicate board decks. Read more.

The Scientist: A Conversation with NIH Director Francis Collins

Francis Collins, MD, PhD, a physician-geneticist and director of the National Institutes for Health for 10 years, has seen his agency flourish from the Obama administration through two years of Trump. NIH, the largest public financial supporter of biomedical science in the world, has recently seen a budget increase due to consistent bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress, despite earlier years of financial turbulence. An interview with Dr. Collins by a contributing editor at Stanford Medicine focuses on NIH’s work and its future, including Dr. Collin’s passion for still being involved in doing basic science through his own lab. Read more.

Call to Make Rosalind Franklin ‘Close’ a ‘Road’ to Give Scientist Proper Recognition

Rosalind Franklin Close in Guilford, a town in Surrey, England, may soon be named Rosalind Franklin Road to honor Rosalind Franklin who did not receive a Nobel Prize for her instrumental work in discovering the structure of DNA. The street, referred to as “Close” rather than “Road” is one of only two streets in the research park named after a woman and the only one called “Close” rather than “Road.” The change has been supported by the University of Surrey which owns the buildings in Rosalind Franklin Close. Interestingly, the member of the public who suggested the change, pointed out that making the street a Close had been “’an intellectual joke,’” in that Franklin ”'got close to receiving a Nobel prize.'” Read more.