Advisory Board

Cristina Almansa is the head of Medical and Scientific Affairs at Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, that aligns with Cristina’s goals of advancing the treatment and improving the quality of life of people suffering with gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. After completing her MD/PHD and Gastroenterology fellowship at the University Complutense in Madrid Cristina moved to the Mayo Clinic in Florida to continue her postdoc work as the recipient of the Jon Isenberg MD Scholar International Medical Award sponsored by the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA). Cristina has worked for more than 15 years in clinical research, as a clinician scientist or a drug developer, and authored more than 40 publications (peer review manuscripts and book chapters) in the field of Gastroenterology. Cristina has held clinical and academic appointments in the Gastroenterology and Hepatology Division at the Hospital Clínico San Carlos, University Complutense (Madrid) and the Mayo Clinic in Florida. During her tenure in the Pharmaceutical Industry, Cristina has led multiple clinical development programs in GI with assets ranging from phase 1 to phase 3. In her most recent role Cristina led the global clinical development of the GI Motility portfolio at Takeda. Cristina is a native Spaniard who lives in Wellesley with her husband and 2 daughters. You can find Cristina running every morning at the Elm Bank Reservation or running after her children in one of the local playgrounds. Cristina loves cooking and enjoying a good homemade meal with family and friends. She believes that “women can have it all” but they need to believe in themselves and find the right partners and sponsors to get (and stay) there.

Fran Barros is The Engine Chief Design Officer. With more than 15 years of experience as a designer, at The Engine she works with the portfolio companies on strategy and storytelling through design, as well as leading marketing and brand for The Engine. Prior to joining, Fran spent five years at IDEO, where she was a project leader developing brand, strategy, and service design for startups and corporate ventures. She holds a BA in Design with a minor in Typography from Pontificia Universidad Catolica in Chile and Graduate Degree in Entrepreneurship from Boston University.

Abigail Bracha is Chief of Staff at Rubius Therapeutics. Prior to joining Rubius, Abby founded and led the global strategy, search and evaluation team for GE Healthcare Life Sciences. In this role, she was responsible for developing the growth strategy and technology innovation roadmap for GE’s life sciences tools business. Prior to GE Healthcare, Abby was at GE Ventures.  She also spent several years at Dell-EMC where she covered emerging digital technologies. Abby holds a BA in Statistics with General Honors from the University of Chicago, which she completed in three years, and holds a PhD from Harvard University in Experimental Pathology. She was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and received support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Julia Curran serves as a Senior Manager in the Insights & Analytics group within the Takeda R&D Data Science Institute. In this role, she leads and supports cross-functional efforts to advance the business impact of technologies and platforms supported by Takeda R&D Data Sciences Institutes' Data Architecture and Digital Solutions group. She previously served as the Oncology Clinical Business Operations Manager at Takeda Pharmaceuticals. One of Julia’s proudest achievements at Takeda is being accepted into the Takeda Access to Medicines (AtM) Oncology R&D Fellowship program. Ranked as an "Industry Best Practice" by the Access to Medicines Foundation, the Takeda AtM Oncology R&D Fellowship program supports local healthcare capacity building in underserved communities via remote & onsite work with teams at AMPATH in Eldoret, Kenya & Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center (KCMC) in Moshi, Tanzania. Julia is passionate, innovative and widely active in her dedication to diversity and inclusion. She has served as an ambassador of Takeda R&D Diversity & Inclusion initiatives at internal and external events. Julia is also an active member of the Boston Biotech and Pharma Women’s Networking Forum that connects many different organizations in the greater Boston area.

Amy Rebecca Gay is a transformational facilitator, mediator, coach and consultant who partners with individuals and organizations to increase their collaboration, work constructively with conflict and build teams and relationships. With over 20 years of experience, she has worked in a variety of industries including financial services, bio-tech and pharma, energy, state and municipal government, and non-profits. Her specialty is supporting individuals and groups in building and maintaining strategic business relationships, even as they navigate thorny issues. In her coaching, she works with emerging and senior leaders to step into their unique leadership style, productively manage conflict and effectively have tough, strategic conversations while building strong business relationships. She was adjunct faculty at LeMoyne College, Syracuse University, UMass Boston, and Babson College School of Management. Amy Rebecca did her undergraduate work in philosophy and political science at North Central College where she was a college scholar and Wingspread Fellow. She did her graduate work at Syracuse University where she earned a master’s in political science and a Ph.D. in social science with concentrations in conflict resolution and women’s studies. She is a certified coach from the Coaches Training Institute (CTI).

Ryan Higginson-Scott is a leader and innovator in the world of global People Operations and Employee Experience. With a career spanning the entire function, he has led diverse and award-winning teams in a broad set of industries - including higher education, corporate retail, high tech, biotech/pharma, and hospitality - always focused on enabling a powerful and rewarding employee experience. Balancing the need for process, policy and compliance, with the goals of sustainable growth and agile operational efficiency, Ryan is an advocate for continuous, data-driven feedback, and iteration on all fronts. He has shared his experience through guest contribution to well-known HR blogs and podcasts, and volunteered time as a board member, partner, contributor and presenter with several area non-profits. His focus has always been on equity and opportunity in the workplace. He has long been a believer in HR disruption and a vocal proponent of any technology that seeks to reconsider not only the how, but also the why behind the way we operate companies, and enable our employees to do their best work.Currently, Ryan lives in the Boston area and leads the Global People Operations function at Fuze, Inc.

Kelan Hlavaty is an Associate Director of Cell-Based Assays at Sana Biotechnology. Previously, she was at SQZ Biotechnologies, where she led a preclinical team engineering antigen presenting cells in the development of a cell-based cancer vaccine, for which an IND was recently filed. Prior, Kelan was a postdoctoral scholar at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR) in the Immuno-Oncology department working on CAR-T cell therapies. Kelan completed her PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern University designing immune-modifying biomaterial scaffolds and nanoparticles for tolerance in transplantation and autoimmune disease. She has volunteered at WEST events since 2016.

Susanna Y. Huh , MD MPH is a pediatric gastroenterologist and physician leader experienced at building and managing cross disciplinary teams in academic, corporate and non-profit settings. She is a Medical Director and Global Clinical Lead at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, where her experience includes the clinical development of small molecule and stem cell therapy in gastrointestinal disease, rare disease, and pediatric conditions. Prior to joining Takeda, Dr. Huh was a faculty member at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, where she directed programs in clinical practice, clinical and epidemiologic research, and quality improvement focused on early childhood nutrition. She is the President of the COVID-19 Action Coalition, a grassroots physician-led non-profit she co-founded to advocate for evidence-based public health practices to reduce COVID-19 transmission. Dr. Huh has a longstanding interest in fostering diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces. At Takeda, she has held leadership roles in employee resource groups and implemented multiple initiatives related to gender parity. Her recent collaboration with other Takeda leaders in launching a structured peer mentoring program was recognized with the 2020 WEST Making a Difference for Women award.


Laura Indolfi is the Co-Founder & CEO of PanTher Therapeutics, an early stage spin-out from MIT and MGH that provides superior technologies for revolutionizing the treatment of locally advanced inoperable solid tumors. Her scientific expertise covers a broad range of therapeutic areas (cardio, cancer, regenerative medicine) and approaches (drug delivery, cell therapy, implanted devices). Together with her strong technical background, Laura has hands-on business and managerial know-how developed during her biomedical business training at Sloan and Harvard Business schools, combining the science and business knowledge to drive the company’s vision. Prior to PanTher, she was a research associate at the Harvard-MIT Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, and served as an entrepreneur-in-residence at the MGH Cancer Center. In 2016, she was named a TED Fellow, one of 21 people chosen annually by the TED organization who are considered to be the most disruptive and transformative change-makers in the world. In 2017, she attended the prestigious conference “Fortune: Most Powerful Women – Next Gen”, an invite-only summit hosted by Fortune gathering a stellar group of game-changing innovators in business. Laura was also one of the 5 women selected for 2018 of MassNextGen program.


Catherine Levine works as a LEAN Six Sigma Black Belt Certified consultant. She has a passion for finding financial efficiencies within biopharma and has held position within GE Life Sciences, Biogen, and Takeda Pharmaceuticals. After working in the lab in translational neuroscience research at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine and the Yale School of Medicine, she moved to Sweden and completed a Master’s of Science in Medical Science at the Karolinska Institute with a major in Bioentrepreneurship and a focus on IP Valuation. Catherine went on to working in venture management for medical device companies in Sweden and then completed a second Master’s Degree in Global Health also from the Karolinska Institute, where she worked with UNAIDS and policy structure. Catherine is also a graduate of MIT’s Sloan School from which she earned an Advanced Certificate for Executives in Management, Innovation, and Technology. She holds post-graduate certificates from the Wharton School and the London School of Economics and holds two Bachelor’s of Science Degrees, one in Biological Sciences and the other in Political Science. She appreciates travel and new cultures and is a citizen of three countries and speaks English, Spanish, and Swedish fluently.


Ana Lopes is Partnership Marketing Leader at IBM Watson Health. Prior to IBM, Ana was Commercial Director at GE Ventures, developing and executing the ecosystem strategy for the GE’s innovation platform as well as engaging with the company’s portfolio companies to drive commercial development opportunities and growth. Ana is a business strategist with experience in multiple innovative and dynamic industries. With a scientific background in Astrophysics and a deep passion for early stage technologies, Ana has a holistic understanding of the entire process of technology commercialization – from the lab to the market. Her professional background also includes technology licensing at MIT and Boston University, business strategy at E Ink, and consulting at Centria Partners. She is a co-founder and board member of SciBR Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to promoting meaningful cultural, educational and scientific exchange between the United States and Brazil. Her work with the foundation was recognized by the Brazilian Federal government and she received the prestigious Diaspora Awards in 2015. Ana holds an MBA from Boston University and an Honours Bachelor of Science from the University of Toronto.


Hicham Mahboubi has worked as a biomedical researcher in the US, Canada, and Europe. He is currently a Lab Head at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research (NIBR) in Cambridge, MA. As part of the Chemical Biology & Therapeutics department, his work focuses on leveraging the latest screening technologies to advance drug discovery projects in collaboration with various disease area partners. Prior to this, Hicham was a Postdoctoral Scholar at NIBR in functional genomics where he drove a global cross-departmental collaboration. His leadership roles include chairing an Employee Resource Group at Novartis and co-founding the Massachusetts Industry Postdoc Association. He is also part of the WEST programming and membership committee. Hicham holds a PhD in Physiology from McGill University and a Graduate Diploma in Business Administration from Concordia University.


Peng Meng is a Commercial Development/Product Manager at MicroMedicine, a Waltham-based medical device start-up that is developing an automated microfluidic cell separation technology. She focuses on cross-functional collaborations to drive the development of various applications, including clinical diagnostics and cell therapy manufacturing. Prior to MicroMedicine, Peng Meng was a consulting manager at Exponent, where she delivered critical engineering and scientific solutions to clients in various industries, including drug/device combination products and consumer electronics. She also spent two years in Hong Kong establishing and growing new corporate site. Peng Meng holds a PhD in Bioengineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree in Biological and Environmental Engineering from Cornell University. During her free time, she enjoys food, traveling, hiking, skiing, reading, and home projects.


Saraswathy (Sara) Nochur is Chief Regulatory Officer, Regulatory Affairs at Alnylam Pharmaceuticals in Cambridge, MA, where she has worked for over 12 years. She has been in the biotechnology industry since 1989, soon after she graduated with a Ph.D. in Biochemical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Over the years, Sara has built a world-class global Regulatory Affairs team at Alnylam, leading to the approval in 2018 of the first ever RNA interference therapeutic by both FDA and EMA. She is also an executive co-sponsor of the Diversity and Inclusion initiative at Alnylam. Sara has been an organizing committee member of the DIA/FDA Oligonucleotide-Based Therapeutics conference over the past decade and has spoken at several forums on regulatory and drug development related topics. Sara has been a mentor to several young professionals in the biotechnology industry, including as part of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association. Sara is on the Board of Hospitality Homes, a non-profit organization that provides free housing for patients and their families when they come to hospitals in the Boston area.

Mary Ann O’Loughlin is an Executive Coach and Principal at Cambridge Consulting and Coaching. Working with global senior executives and mid-career leaders she brings her own personal experience of the leadership challenges encountered on the job to her clients. Mary Ann has led teams and organizations during her 30+ year career in tech and subsequently developed a deep, practical understanding of coaching and leadership development during her tenure at Harvard Business School. Her business career has spanned sales, marketing, consulting, and senior management roles in large corporations and small start-ups. Mary Ann spent ten years with the UK research and consulting company Ovum in both London and Boston where she managed Ovum’s US operation as President of Ovum North America. Previously, Mary Ann had founded a consulting and telecoms service company in France and, earlier in her career, she worked for IBM Canada, Hewlett Packard and Lucent. Mary Ann holds a BS in Physics from McMaster University (Ontario), an MS in Biophysics from the University of Toronto, an MBA from Insead in France and a graduate certificate in Executive Coaching from the William James College.  A UK native, she has lived and worked in Canada, France, the United States, and the United Kingdom and is a fluent French speaker. Mary Ann spent four rewarding years on the WEST board and is a Board Member of the Truro Center for the Arts. 

Rekha K. Paleyanda is Director at Servier BioInnovation, the external innovation engine for the privately-held pharmaceutical company, Servier Group. Rekha heads business development in the U.S., with a focus on in-licensing innovative therapies from early-stage through clinical proof of concept. Her goal is to develop strong partnerships for Servier with key stakeholders in the US healthcare, biotech and research communities. Launched to expand Servier’s global presence in early 2018, BioInnovation is located in Kendall Square in Cambridge, MA. Previously, Dr. Paleyanda directed the Office of Technology Commercialization at the University of Massachusetts and was a Senior Business Strategy & Licensing Manager in the Innovation Office of Partners HealthCare. Before that, she co-founded a biologics startup and worked on developing therapeutics for rare genetic diseases at Transkaryotic Therapies (now part of Takeda). She holds a Ph.D. in Genetics from the George Washington University in Washington DC and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Holland Lab for Biomedical Sciences in Rockville, MD.

Anna Li is a senior organism engineer at Gingko Bioworks. She has more than 15 years of research and teaching experience in molecular biology, microbiology and plant pathology, she has served a series of roles on a scientific team with responsibility for technical development, research supervision, program management and operations throughout her career. She has been a key player in developing the genome mining platform, initially at Warp Drive Bio and recently acquired by Ginkgo. This platform is currently being used, in collaboration with Roche, to develop new classes of antibiotics to fight the rise of antibiotic-resistant diseases. Previously Anna worked as a visiting scholar in the Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Department at Harvard University and conducted research on mutational pathways of bacterial drug resistance. She received her Ph.D. in Plant Pathology in 2007 and held a position as an associate professor at Shandong Agricultural University in China before moving to the US. Anna is passionate about advocating for women in the science community, enabling them to connect and support each other. She has volunteered at WEST events and book clubs for many years and was the recipient of the WEST Giving Back Award in 2017. She served as a WEST Advisory Board member in 2018.

Lisa Amaya Price has served as Senior Vice President, Human Resources at Scholar Rock, Inc., a clinical stage biotechnology company, since April 2019. She is a human resource executive with over 20 years of experience in developing human resource strategies and leading talent recruitment, selection and development in the biopharmaceutical industry. Prior to joining Scholar Rock, Lisa served at Takeda Pharmaceuticals Company Ltd., where she led the organizational design and talent selection related to the company’s acquisition of Shire Pharmaceuticals. Previously, she was Global Head of Human Resources for Takeda’s vaccine business unit. Before joining Takeda, Lisa served in various positions of increasing responsibility at Biogen, Inc from 2008 to 2016, including most recently Senior Director, Human Resources of R&D. While at Biogen, Lisa was one of the founding members of the company’s first women’s employee resource group and let the creation of Biogen’s diversity and inclusion function. Earlier in her career, she held human resource leadership positions at Interpublic Group, Inc., Metro International S.A., and American Financial Systems, Inc. Lisa holds an MBA in global strategy from F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College, a M.A. in teaching from Simmons College, and a B.A. in music from Bard College.

Ilise Samolyk is the Senior Director, IT Customer Platform at Waters Corporation. She is responsible for providing technical leadership, roadmap development, and solutions delivery to drive business value within the commercial operations of marketing, field sales, and field service. Prior to Waters Corporation, Ilise was Director of Engineering and IT Operations of AIC, a division of Autobytel, providing custom software products and solutions to the automotive industry. Her earlier career was focused on software engineering working in several industries from financial services to government systems. Ilise has over 20 years of expertise in software development and Information Technology with deep experience in web development and CRM systems. Ilise holds a BA in Computer Science with honors from Northeastern University.

Elena Spencer is Chief of Staff to the Chief Scientific Officer for the Inflammation & Immunology Research Unit at Pfizer in Cambridge, MA. She received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Cellular & Molecular Biology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and is currently pursuing an M.B.A. at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. After 15 years as a bench scientist she made the pivot to R&D Strategy & Operations in 2016 where she has pursued roles of increasing responsibility culminating in her present role as Chief of Staff. Elena is also co-founder, President and CEO of Kendall Square Orchestra, a community organization that seeks to connect science and technology professionals through music to spark innovation and support causes related to healthcare, education & inclusivity. In 2020, Elena was awarded the WEST (Women in Enterprise of Science at Technology) “Making a Difference in the Community” award.

Aldona Szostek-Pontchek is a Director in the Stability & Statistics department at Sanofi Genzyme. Her career in biotechnology began in 1993 when she joined Human Genome Sciences Inc. She led a sequencing team contributing to one of the most exciting projects of the time with the goal of determining the base pairs that make up human DNA and identifying and mapping all of the genes of the human genome. This effort resulted in the first-in-decades treatment for systemic lupus.Aldona moved from research to Quality Control as a Senior Manager. In this role she was responsible for release and stability testing as well as the development of immunoassays for testing new drug candidates. At Sanofi, Aldona continues to be a part of Quality and she is responsible for oversight of the stability program for biologics and devices. Aldona holds a Masters of Science in Biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University and she is currently enrolled in the JHU Alumni Career Design Fellowship. Other affiliations include the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) and the Women Inspiring Sanofi Excellence (WISE). Aldona participates in mentoring programs for biotechnology professionals at work.

Anne Thessen worked as a research oceanographer and phycologist until 2013, when she decided to start her own data science company, The Data Detektiv. Anne is well known for her work on data infrastructure and the application of semantic technologies and machine learning in biodiversity and earth science. Her work has supported institutions and companies like Google, the Smithsonian, and NASA. She is an active member of the Research Data Alliance, a global effort to support data infrastructure, as the RDA US Data Share Ambassador. She was an invited speaker on infrastructure sustainability at the EarthCube All-Hands-Meeting in 2016 and on data infrastructures for coastal science at the Atlantic Estuarine Research Society in 2014. Anne has a BS in Biology and a PhD in oceanography from the University of Maryland, where she was a US EPA STAR Fellow. Her thesis work caused the state of Maryland to change the way it monitored harmful algae in the Chesapeake Bay. Anne made the shift from academia to industry in 2013 and is pioneering an alternative career as an independent scientist through her company and her affiliation with the Ronin Institute for Independent Scholarship. She has volunteered at WEST events for many years and was the recipient of the WEST Giving Back Award in 2017.

Deborah Vernon, Ph.D. is a partner at Womble Bond Dickinson LLP and a founding member of its Boston Office. Deborah assists clients in obtaining and enforcing intellectual property rights with a focus on technology in the chemical and mechanical arts. Deborah has successfully represented clients in appeals and contested proceedings before the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the Federal Circuit. Deborah obtained her J.D. from Suffolk University School of Law (magna cum laude). Prior to her legal career, Deborah obtained her doctorate degree in material science from Brown University, where she conducted research on thin films and ceramic materials. This research led her to develop novel processing techniques for controlling grain growth during the densification of nanophase ceramic compacts using chemical vapor deposition. In addition to serving on WEST’s Board of Directors, Deborah serves as a member of the Trinity Engineering Advisory Council at Trinity College.


Gloria Vigliani  is pharmaceutical physician executive with more than 25 years of international drug development experience. She has extensive experience building and managing clinical development organizations and has held various senior management positions at Astra, Biogen, and Cubist Pharmaceuticals where she was head of clinical development and was a member of the executive committee. After 14 years in industry, Dr. Vigliani established Vigliani Consulting to provide clinical and regulatory drug development consulting services. She has an outstanding track record for successful new product registrations in a range of therapeutic areas in the US and in Europe. In recent years, she developed the Mastering Clinical Drug Development training course for physicians and scientists transitioning from academia to industry and has served as a mentor for many young professionals. Prior to industry, Dr. Vigliani held a faculty position at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She received a BS in Biology from Tufts University and an MD degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania. She became board certified in Internal Medicine and Geriatrics.


Karin von Hodenberg is Senior Director of Quality Systems at Akebia Therapeutics. Prior to that she was the Director of Quality Systems at bluebird bio, an advanced gene-therapy company focused on autologous treatment for severe rare diseases. At bluebird bio, Karin also co-led the bWILD employee organization (Women Influencing Leadership & Development) focused on the development and enhancement of leadership skills for the bluebird organization. She has also been a part of the HBA local chapter mentoring program. Prior to joining bluebird bio, Karin managed, developed and grew the quality systems and training organizations for medical device companies - GE Healthcare (Diagnostics), Philips Healthcare and Haemonetics. She has an MBA from Marquette University, and a BBA (International Business) from St. Norbert College.


Katie Williams is Associate Director of Business Development at Applied BioMath. She holds a PhD in Applied Mathematics and has spent over a decade developing quantitative systems pharmacology mathematical models that integrate data from many sources to address challenging questions in drug discovery and development. She is happiest bringing diverse and interdisciplinary groups together to make better decisions in work and life, which motivated her to join Applied BioMath, which is a pharma/biotech services organization providing project-based math modeling to support key program decisions from early discovery through late-stage clinical trial design. At Applied BioMath, Katie first developed math models to support programs from small molecules to antibody-drug conjugates in such indications as immuno-oncology and inflammation before transitioning into business development where she manages work-plan generation, develops new materials/approaches to communicate ABM’s value proposition, contributes sales pipeline data analysis to quarterly board meeting presentations, and orchestrates lead management initiatives. Katie also leads initiatives to support career planning and advancement both at her company and through organizations such as WEST.


20th Anniversary