women in bio

Women entrepreneurs in Pittsburgh are making significant strides in the life sciences and that was cause for celebration Monday night.

More than 150 women and more than a few men gathered at Thrill Mill for the first Pittsburgh Outstanding Women Entrepreneurs Rally, or P.O.W.E.R., in recognition of their work in building more than a dozen life science companies here. The event was held by Pittsburgh’s Women in Bio chapter.

Susan Catalano, founder and CSO of Cognition Therapeutics, told the audience that a drug therapy to treat Alzheimer’s that will work to halt the build up of toxic proteins in the brain will enter clinical trial next year.

Katie Farraro of LigaMend is part of a team at University of Pittsburgh’s Musculoskeletal Research Center designing a bioresorbable magnesium device able to regenerate an injured ACL, a ligament within the knee.

Virginia Pribanic, president and CEO of MedRespond, described a forthcoming online or mobile platform that will assist patients in communicating one-to-one with doctors and medical professionals in making challenging personal medical decisions.

Kelly Collier, CEO of ActivAided Orthotics, shared the story of the startup’s posture training device that is helping to successfully rehabilitate back pain while retraining the alignment of the spine.

Ten women in all took the stage to share their successes as part of a united effort to encourage and nourish life sciences in the region. Mayor Bill Peduto, who attended with Debra Lam, chief innovation and performance officer, applauded their work.

“You are on the cusp of something great,” Peduto said, noting the progress women are making in the region and adding that for the first time in the city’s history 60 percent of all board appointments are women. “We’re at the beginning of what a 21st century city will look like. It will be done in such a way that other cities will want to be more like us.”

The evening also featured keynote speakers from outside the region, Nada Jain of Golden Seeds, an investment firm founded by several Wall Street women, spoke of empowering and investing in women entrepreneurs. Golden Seeds is an investor in Cognition Therapeutics.

Springboard Enterprises founder Amy Millman spoke about the work her organization is doing to support and accelerate women-led companies. Catherine Mott, founder of BlueTree Allied Angels, shared her own story of making her first investment.

“Something the mayor said struck me,” Mott said. “The mayor said women aren’t invited to the table. We shouldn’t expect to be invited, we have to invite ourselves and be a player.”

The Pittsburgh chapter of Women in Bio, launched in 2012, supports and recognizes emerging women leaders in the life sciences.

Deb Smit

Deb is an award-winning journalist who loves ancient places and cool technologies. A former daily newspaper reporter and Time-Life Books editor, she writes mostly about Pittsburgh. Her stories have appeared in Fast Company, Ozy and Pittsburgh Magazine.