Female leaders join bit.bio with COO ‘proud of team we’re building’
Kathryn Corzo took up the role of chief operating officer (COO) at synthetic biology company bit.bio in November.
She joined bit.bio, whose expertise combines coding with biology to provide new human cells for research, she had been a partner at Takeda Ventures Inc, and head of oncology cell therapy development at Takeda Pharmaceuticals. She also served on Takeda’s R&D management committee, was a member of Takeda’s oncology leadership team and served on the board of directors for Maverick Therapeutics which was acquired by Takeda in 2021.
Prior to her shifts at Takeda she held roles at Hoffmann-La-Roche, Roche Molecular Systems, Eli Lilly and Syndax, contributing to the initial approval of six innovative cancer medicines and multiple indication expansions across the globe.
Yet despite this awesome CV, Kathryn makes it clear to the Cambridge Independent that her feet are firmly on the ground at The Dorothy Hodgkin Building Babraham Research, where bit.bio is based.
“Actually a lot of my roles, whilst in big companies, were in start-up-like environments – building small teams on lean budgets to pursue innovation, so I knew what I would be joining with my role at bit.bio,” she said.
“The most surprising thing about joining was the amount of choices before us – because the technology is generalisable to any human cell type, we have the benefit of deciding which cell types we go for first, what sorts of therapies and products we want to bring to market that will offer the most benefit – and that’s so exciting to be part of.”
She said of her mission: “My passion and life work is to deliver transformative therapies for patients in need.
“Cell therapies hold significant promise yet R&D is extremely expensive and complex. bit.bio has a unique platform technology to address many challenges of cell therapy development by providing consistency, speed and scale with its novel approach to cell coding and reprogramming.
“As an emerging biotech company bit.bio has profound growth possibilities.”
Kathryn’s role, “like a lot of the roles at bit.bio, is a global role”, so she is in Boston sometimes – opening a US office is “certainly something we are exploring at the moment”. But Cambridge is where this astonishing company, which has raised $145m since being founded by Dr Mark Kotter in 2016, is based – and where the won the Biotech Company of the Year award at the Cambridge Independent Science & Technology Awards 2022, and Dr Kotter won the CEO of the Year award at the same event.
Kathryn notes: “Cambridge is our headquarters so I’m here more than anywhere else because there’s a lot to do to build the company further and I need to be here in person to be effective in making that happen.”
And what about Cambridge, what has surprised you since arriving in chilly November?
“The Cambridge ecosystem is pretty perfect. We have world class academics, hospitals, investors, talent… And it’s not just biologists, we have mathematicians, physicists, any discipline we need to tap into, it’s here.”
How much of your work is R&D-based?
“Our R&D function is the engine of our company,” Kathryn replies, “where the technology is developed and new products are devised. So yes, I spend time working with that team. But my role spans the entire organisation so I’m also focused on building out the business to ensure we can transform what is happening in R&D into products that can benefit patients and research and drug discovery. And you can see that in the new hires we are announcing – they span multiple functions beyond R&D.”
This month, Kathryn welcomed four new female leaders to the team and the Cambridge Independent caught up with the quartet of new faces.
- Annie Wilcoxen, who has a PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Wisconsin, recently joined as VP of programme management office, with over 18 years of experience advancing complex drug development programmes at all stages of development, across large pharma (Eisai and Amgen) and smaller biotechs (Akebia, Wave Life Sciences and Q32 Bio). Her therapeutic expertise spans multiple therapeutic areas including CNS, immunology, oncology, neurology, nephrology and metabolic diseases.
She says: “With new technologies, innovative products and limitless imagination, cell therapy could have the potential to transform medicine across disease areas with significant therapeutic need. bit.bio has all of the above plus a super-talented and dedicated team – I feel very fortunate to be part of this journey and have the opportunity to contribute and make an impact.”
- Megan Doe, who has a PhD in genetics from Dartmouth College, has joined bit.bio as VP of portfolio strategy and business operations.
Megan was most recently a senior director in the cell therapy development and global portfolio strategy teams at Takeda Oncology and before that was director of portfolio analytics in corporate strategy at Sanofi.
Megan says: “bit.bio is at an exciting stage of growth with a dedicated and talented team. Its unique cell programming platform holds promise to deliver transformational cell therapy products for patients and research products for drug discovery. bit.bio is a purpose-driven company dedicated to improving patient access to innovative medicines, as well as leading in social responsibility and sustainability.”
- Melissa Pong’s role at bit.bio is as VP of quality and compliance: she has 20-plus years of extensive quality, compliance, and operational experience in biopharmaceutical industry. She is a leader with a proven track record in establishing fit-for-purpose quality management systems and “building/supporting a quality culture where everyone takes accountability in commitment to quality and compliance”.
Melissa adds: “In addition to bit.bio’s revolutionary technology that has wide-range therapeutic possibilities for patients with different medical needs, the bit.bio team is scientifically and operationally talented, committed to doing the right thing, and genuinely nice. Quality and compliance is possible only with people who care.
“I am very proud to be part of the bit.bio team.”
- Kathryn Golden is senior vice president, technical operations and cell manufacturing at bit.bio.
She has an accomplished CMC (chemistry, manufacturing, and controls) track record of shepherding complex drug candidates from the discovery stage to pivotal trials. She holds an MEng in bioengineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and an MBA from the Sloan School of Management at MIT.
Kathryn’s expertise includes integrated process development, phase-appropriate quality and regulatory coordination, and management of contract manufacturing organisations. She has been an early employee at six biotechnology start-ups, including Q32 Bio and Codiak BioSciences. She also has a track record of working to increase access to transformative therapies for underserved populations.
Kathryn says: “bit.bio has both an innovative technology and a united mission in how to apply this technology. I was attracted to bit.bio by their emphasis on increasing access for all patients to state-of-the-art therapy. And I’m so excited about the opportunity to relocate to Cambridge.”
Kathryn Corzo concluded: “I’m excited to welcome our new female leaders to our expanding bit.bio team.
“Most people are primarily attracted to the company because bit.bio has a unique precision cellular reprogramming approach that enables us to manufacture any human cell with consistency at a commercial scale.
“There’s so much potential to transform research, drug discovery and cell therapies with the tech. We already have over 140 employees – experts from around the world – and continue to recruit top talent across disciplines in research, development, cell manufacturing, operations, data science and commercial.
“I’m proud of the team we are building at bit.bio and of these latest strong hires.”