DEI in focus at BIO 2023

Jun 14, 2023

By Tom Browne, Director of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, MassBio

Dr. Paul Rowe (Sanofi), Tom Browne (MassBio), and Johanna Jobin (Biogen) at the MassBio State of Possible Pavilion during BIO 2023. (Photo by John Wilcox)

The 2023 BIO International Convention at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center was an incredible display of the scientific achievements and offerings of MassBio members and the impact they continue to have within and outside Massachusetts. It was particularly impressive to witness how DEI was given its rightful place on the agenda, particularly at the Massachusetts “State of Possible” Pavilion. Not only were three talks specifically DEI and Health Equity focused, but DEI was featured in nearly every presentation. 

Joining me for a fireside chat on “Perspectives on DEI in Biotech” were Dr. Paul Rowe, MD, ATSF, Vice President, and Head of Global Medical Immunology at Sanofi, and Johanna Jobin, Global Head of Corporate Reputation & Responsibility at Biogen and the Executive Director of the Biogen Foundation. Much of our discussion hinged on the realization that pursuing an understanding of DEI-related issues and demonstrating inclusive behaviors is everyone’s responsibility all the time. Every interaction an employee has at work can affect their perception of the life sciences industry and their future stability here in the Commonwealth. 

Dr. Reginald Swift (RubixLS)

Both Paul and Johanna explained how, even without DEI in their core responsibilities, they understand the influence they have as leaders in their own fields. Johanna shared a number of initiatives she has championed to build a more diverse workforce at Biogen. This includes partnerships with Project Onramp and The Partnership, and Johanna made reference to how supporting the newly created Bioversity will contribute to key efforts to not only prepare diverse populations for careers in the life sciences, but truly welcome them. Paul, who oversees a large global team, stated that it’s imperative to not only make sure clinical trials are representative of the populations that companies are trying to serve, but that environments are created within companies where those who provide a diversity of thought and perspective feel supported and empowered to speak up and take action.  

This focus also complimented what we heard in our “Possible Talk” on health equity with Dr. Reginald Swift of Rubix Life Sciences. RubixLS aims to tackle disease diagnosis disparities and therapeutic outcomes for underrepresented patients. Reginald called out the need to not have the needs of diverse patients and populations as an afterthought but to have them at the heart of the way we design, develop and deliver our products and services.  

Drs. Amogha Tadimety and Alison Burklund (Nanopath)

Sitting in on the presentation by Dr. Alison Burklund and Dr. Amogha Tadimety, co-founders of Nanopath, delivered insight into how their company plans to increase the speed of gynecologic infection identification. One of their motivations to start Nanopath? To counter well-documented medical biases that keep women from getting the care they need. By improving the accuracy and accessibility of rapid diagnostics they aim to make care more equitable and reduce the chance of women having to take time away from work due to the discomfort of infections. 

Each of these experts brought a common and consistent message that intentional efforts must be made to ensure that workforces and patient populations are both diverse and inclusive. Anyone who stopped by for these talks left more committed than ever to this work.

To find out more about the efforts of our MassBio members and for actionable takeaways to help support your own internal efforts, register for our upcoming Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Conference on July 20th

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