Paving the Way: Bold Perspectives from Female Executives in Biotech

Protected: Paving the Way: Conversations with Female Biotech Executives

By Katie Litwin | April 1, 2024

As the biopharma sector continues its rapid evolution, a pivotal shift is underway, highlighting the role of diversity and technological advancement in shaping its future. In our ongoing commitment to celebrating women’s monumental contributions to this dynamic industry, we are thrilled to introduce the latest entry in our blog series, featuring the insights of another distinguished leader in Life Sciences. This edition spotlights Krishna Allamneni, Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer at Concarlo Therapeutics, Inc. With a career spanning over two decades in various roles across small biotech and large pharmaceutical companies, Krishna brings a wealth of experience and a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities ahead for biopharma. As we delve into her views on mergers and acquisitions, the future of clinical research, and the impacts of remote work and AI on the industry, we uncover valuable strategies for navigating the complexities of today’s biopharma landscape.

 

Krishna Allamneni

Concarlo Therapeutics, Inc,Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer

At Concarlo, she leads preclinical R&D, CMC, portfolio/project management, clinical strategy, and regulatory affairs. With over two decades of experience in small biotech and mid- large-pharma, she has shaped nonclinical packages for 7 successful products and led safety assessment of over 25 successful IND programs across a variety of therapeutic areas.  Prior to that, she served in various leadership roles at Jazz Pharmaceuticals, NGM Biopharmaceuticals, Genentech/Roche, Celera Genomics, and Titan Pharmaceuticals. She is a recent graduate of the highly selective Women in Bio’s Boardroom Ready Program which is designed to optimize a woman’s chances of success in finding a board appointment in Life Sciences. 

 

Thinking more broadly about the future of biopharma:


Do you think M&A activity is back on the rise?

It’s something that we’re keeping an eye on being a small company that is seeking to raise funds. We’re trying to look at every possible funding activity whether that’s partnership, acquisition, etc. to evaluate every possible avenue; so, we’re watching funding activity closely. We’ve seen a significant rebound in M&A activity. We saw mega deals already this year; Pfizer bought Seagen, Merck bought Prometheus… What is interesting is that a majority of these acquisitions focused on de-risked targets or de-risked therapeutic areas, or companies with at least Ph III trials. So, it strikes me that investors are still a bit risk averse. I also noted a few additional interesting trends, such as that neuroscience drug development, which historically has dragged behind for decades with respect to investment, has really bloomed. Additionally, as a side effect of the Ozempic craze, all of these companies focused in cardiometabolic drug development have experience a boom.

We also see areas of antimicrobials have been neglected, and we seriously need to invest in this area otherwise we will end up in serious trouble as a society. And the other area underfunded is women’s health. Women as patients are being treated like men and there needs to be more considerations made for women to be recognized as a unique patient population.

 

What trends do you think we’ll see over this upcoming year whether that is in the realm of clinical research, patient recruitment, clinical trials outsourcing, new regulatory frameworks and/or new technologies?

We’ve had some really difficult few years in clinical development. With the onset of COVID, all clinical trial recruitment shut down completely. And then with a significant drop in investment post COVID, that put some serious hurdles in front of us with clinical trials being launched. Now investment is coming back around, but we’re navigating challenging and nuanced geo-political turmoil in 2023 that has posed serious challenges. We’ll be hoping for some stability as areas to recruit patients for clinical trials.

A regulatory development I believe will have a profound impact is FDA also requiring diversity plans for clinical trial recruitment, which will help shape clinical trials over the next coming decades. There have also been several significant developmental milestones, such as the approval of the first CRISPR treatment and in 2024 I’m hopeful we’ll continue to see a growing trend of additional investments made into genome editing therapeutics.

 

Remote working and the “shift” to leaders in biotech with recruitment, culture, growth and success:

 

Have you found the impact of “remote work” has hampered your hiring at all or opened new doors for your company? And how do you create a consistent employee experience if mixed?

In one way, it’s opened doors for our company’s hiring process. We embraced remote working processes. We’ve been able to access a broader talent pool. We’ve brought in qualified candidates from diverse areas and that has brought new innovation and perspectives into our organization.

And even the parts that we can’t do remotely, as an example we have a significant emphasis on lab work and lab work has to done in person, we have allowed for remote flexibility to review publications and compile data. We have consistent values and we want to create a seamless employee experience for everyone. We want all employee experiences to be clear and fair. We have formal and informal standing meetings, and they don’t have to be in person. We provide access to resources all remotely, such as Slack, Teams and Zoom and it’s providing equal access to these resources whether in person or remote that makes a difference. Once in a while we also have pizza parties for lab based folks, we’ll bring our overseas folks in person, host holiday parties, and we do virtual activities so everyone feels connected to the mothership.

 

Impacts of AI/machine learning and automation on biotech:

 

Do you see AI as being a threat or benefit to drug development? How are you building this into your company strategy? How will AI Accelerate Drug Discovery and Development? AI algorithms may perpetuate societal biases in patient data collection, handling and insight generation. How can we better identify and mitigate bias in AI applications for clinical development?

Concarlo is deeply interested in AI – AI proteins and drug discovery. We think it will be a significant opportunity for us. AI could be seen as a threat or a benefit depending on the audience, but we recognize the complexities of it. We can use it for drug discovery but then ultimately we need to integrate human intelligence later in the process to enhance speed, cost effectiveness, and the quality of products that come through our discovery pipeline. We’ve been focused on supporting biology for our assay platform and using it for lead identification. We’re using AI to enhance our capabilities rather than take over our fundamental creative decision making.

The World Economic Forum also recently released some other interesting points about AI for drug development that are worth considering. What stood out to me about leveraging AI for drug development is the excitement around it. We have the power to build out multi model data sets and create diverse candidate pools. We can use it for more efficient tumor diagnosis – and also identifying the appropriate patient to enroll in that trial. AI has now identified drug candidates that are now entering clinical trials. And AI has the power to improve clinical trial outcomes by identifying the right patient for the right clinical trial.

What’s important to consider is that AI is forcing us to ask what questions are important to solve and then helping to develop the tools to help answer the questions we’re asking. It is forcing us to ask the questions that we, as humans, can’t ask because of the sheer amount of data that is out there.  

 

Connect with Krishna Allamneni

 

Krishna Allamneni’s journey and insights provide a compelling narrative on the resilience, adaptability, and forward-thinking required to excel in the biopharma sector. Her contributions to Concarlo Therapeutics, along with her participation in the Women in Bio’s Boardroom Ready Program, exemplify the kind of leadership that drives innovation and inclusivity in Life Sciences. As we reflect on our conversation, it’s clear that the future of biopharma lies in embracing diversity, leveraging technology, and fostering a culture of collaboration and openness to change. By highlighting Krishna’s story and her strategic approach to overcoming industry challenges, we continue our mission to celebrate female executives who are not just navigating but also shaping the future of Life Sciences. Through their achievements and insights, we gain inspiration and guidance for aspiring leaders and the entire biopharma community, ensuring a more inclusive, innovative, and successful future for all.

 

 

 

About the Author
Katie Litwin

Katie Litwin is an Executive Vice President within Life Sciences in New York, specializing in working with professionals in Regulatory Affairs who are driving the next era of drug development.

Her network is made up of individuals who work on innovative approaches to the world’s most pressing diseases to deliver therapies and cures to patients everywhere.

Katie’s ability to identify the highly-specialized backgrounds required for a career in Regulatory Affairs have translated to an impressive track record of placing senior-level executives in this field.

What makes GQR’s Life Sciences team stand out the most is their sincere passion for science in each company they are involved in working with. The team’s ability to build long-term relationships with experts in the space have made them genuinely knowledgeable about where the best talent is located.

Katie is a dual citizen to the U.S. and Canada. Outside of work, she is passionate about traveling, outdoors and trying new restaurant and recipes!

Connect with Katie to speak about your dream career or where you’d like to take your team next!

“I found Katie very engaging and well versed in the role and employer, especially for a Regulatory position. I have had many recruiters call to place for Regulatory roles that have no knowledge of the Regulatory field and it is very difficult to obtain a clear understanding of the role and expectations.”

– Life Sciences Candidate

 

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