Born 26th July, 1965 (Pittsburgh, PA, USA) - Died 17th April, 2017
Carolyn E Green was a serial entrepreneur in the life sciences community and a leading voice for women in the sector. In her short life she managed to found and head up numerous companies and held many leadership and sales positions in the biopharmaceutical industry. Her crowning achievement was to be hired by Pfizer to head up its new strategic research and development investments initiative. This entailed working with the corporation’s venture fund to establish partnerships with early-stage companies. Green’s enduring patience and strong mentoring skills, together with her passion to develop products to help patients, set her apart from many others in the biotechnology world.
Carolyn Green grew up in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh. She was the youngest of two daughters born to Jean and Howard Norris. Both her parents had a humble background. Her father was an electrician and her mother a secretary/ administrative assistant. Green’s life was touched by tragedy early on. When she was just 10 years old she lost her older sister, Laurel, who died at the age of 13 after sustaining a head injury. With her parents consumed by grief, Green rapidly developed a strong sense of independence. She suffered more trauma in her early twenties when her father suddenly died of a pulmonary embolism in his early fifties. It happened just a couple of months before she was due to get married. Having no sibling or close relatives to turn to, Green looked to her friends as her family and was always there for them whenever they needed help, whether it to be to lend a hand with their newborn baby or talk through their options for cancer treatment or any other health issues.
Full of enthusiasm and energy, Green’s magnetic personality and laughter always lit up the room she entered. Green married twice and was just as passionate about caring for her family as she was about pursuing her career. Her first husband, whom she married in 1990, was a sheet metal worker. The couple had two daughters, the first, Caitlin, born in 1991, and the second, Casey, born in 1992. They divorced in 1999. Green went on to marry again in 2001. Her second husband was Adam Green, an expert in computers and a keen photographer. The two of them originally met while working for a company for which they were selling software to help in the engineering and chemistry sectors. Adam had a son and a daughter by a previous marriage. They had a very happy marriage and shared many interests, including travelling, walking dogs and sailing. In addition they were deeply involved in Social Venture Partners Pittsburgh, a community of philanthropists that use their expertise, skills and finance to help people with social problems.
Bright and outgoing, Green stood out for her inquisitiveness and was always on the lookout for opportunities to learn. As a child she attended the local schools in her Pittsburgh neighbourhood, firstly Highcliff Elementary School, then West View Junior High School and finally North Hills High School. One teacher in particular inspired her - her chemistry teacher at North Hills High School. It was he who awakened her interest in science.
Green excelled at school and was a passionate debater, winning the annual tournament in her final four years of school. By the time Green finished school, she had attained the highest scores for getting into university. While she had an offer to study at Johns Hopkins University, she opted to go to the University of Pittsburgh. This was because her father’s electrical union offered her scholarship to go there, which covered all of her fees.
Green completed a four-year degree at the University of Pittsburgh in chemistry, mathematics and education in 1987. This was not the end of her studies. In 2001 she undertook a one year business degree at the Joseph M Katz Graduate School of Business affiliated to the University of Pittsburgh. She did the course while simultaneously working and looking after her two young daughters. Eight years later Green participated in an executive education programme for pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry leaders run by Harvard Business School.
Green started her career as a chemistry and maths teacher at North Hills High School.(North Hills) From there she went on to work in the computer-aided engineering software sector. This included working in sales, marketing and business development for the AEA Technology plc and Algor Inc. Recognised to be a consummate sales person, Green was subsequently recruited to be the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Mobot Inc, a robotics company that specialises in artificial intelligence software and hardware for human computer interactions.(University Times, 2017)
After a few years at Mobot Inc, Green became the founding director of the Office of Enterprise Development (OED) at the University of Pittsburgh. Launched in 2001, the aim of the OED was to provide a hub for the commercialisation of innovations emerging out of the university’s many health sciences schools, including the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and the McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine. Some idea of how big an operation this was can be measured by annual $650 million the university receives in National Institutes of Health funding.
Although Green had no healthcare background she had the ideal skills for the OED position. It required someone with a background in science that understood how to commercialise new technology. Green’s role was to mediate between the scientists and the business world so as to build a common understanding to facilitate the successful path from research to commercialisation. With scientists and business investors coming from different perspectives this is a complex process. While scientists tend to regard their invention in terms of its scientific merit and originality, those in business evaluate innovation on the grounds of the risk it faces in terms of getting regulatory approval, ease of mass production and potential in the marketplace. The key for Green was to help the scientists build up enough value into their product to inspire investors’ interest. This meant making sure their invention had gone through sufficient animal testing and pilot studies for it to handed over to a partner for the next stage of commercial development. Green also guided the scientists in the development of their business plans and ensured all the rights and ownership of intellectual property issues were agreed with the relevant scientists to open the way to commercialisation.(Regenerative Medicine Today, Podcast)
In the five years that Green was at the OED, she facilitated the setting up of a dozen spin-out companies that emerged out of the university’s research. In addition, she helped create and launch a 14-week, CME-accredited course at the university called ‘From Bench Top to Bedside, What Every Scientist Needs to Know’. This course aims to educate academic research scientists, postdocs and graduate students in information necessary for translating basic research discoveries into clinical applications. More than 400 physicians and scientists have completed the course since it started in 2001, with many of them going on to see their ideas become products.
One of the companies that Green helped found through the auspices of the OED was Logical Therapeutics. This she set up in 2005 with Mitchell Fink, an expert in sepsis and critical care treatments who was associate dean of translational research at the University of Pittsburgh. The two of them were inspired to form the company based on the work of Allan Zhou, assistant professor of cell biology and physiology at the University of Pittsburgh. He had shown that leptin, an anti-obesity hormone, was inactivated by a particular protein and identified a series of compounds that could block the protein. Excitingly his work provided a new approach to treating obesity and one of its key complications type 2 diabetes mellitus, a major public health issue. Zhou had done extensive studies of his technology in mice and had already secured a patent for it which opened the way to licensing it for commercialisation.(LT and University Pittsburgh press release, April 1 2007; Fink and Green interview, 2007)
While highly excited by Zhou’s science, Green and Fink realised it was still at too early a stage to attract any substantial investment. For this reason they began looking for other products to add to the company’s portfolio. In their hunt they hit upon a drug sitting on a shelf at Medinox, a small biotechnology company in San Diego of which Fink was a board member. The drug had already gone through extensive preclinical studies and had been evaluated in 47 subjects in a phase I clinical trial. Despite its promising results, Medinox could not take the compound forward because it had run out of funding. Most of the $40 million raised by the company, had been spent on its lead product, a compound to treat sepsis.(Fink and Green interview, 2007)
Known as LT-NS001 or Aleve, Medinox’s drug was designed to block inflammation and relieve pain. It was a biologically inactive compound that only became active once it hit the bloodstream. This limited the damage it could do to the stomach and intestine which often caused gastric ulcers, a common problem for non-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that millions of people bought over the counter to help them with chronic conditions like arthritis. With NSAIDs accounting for between 10,000 and 20,000 deaths in the US each year, mainly from gastric bleeding and cardiovascular complications, Green and Fink knew LT-NS001 would be an appealing product for investors. Fink therefore decided to put in his own money to take out an exclusive license from Medinox to obtain the drug. With license only lasting 90 days, Fink and Green then set out to raise the finance to secure the full rights to the compound.(Fink and Green interview, 2007)
By July 2006, they had managed to raise $1.5 million from Innovation Works, an economic development organisation in Pittsburgh. With this funding Green was able to leave her position at the OED to become the chief operating officer of Logical Therapeutics and began to build out the company’s business plan. A year later she and Fink secured $30 million in venture capital from SV Life Sciences, Burrill & Company, Novo A/S, Sigvion Capital, and PA Early Stage Partners. Raising such funds had proven a major undertaking entailing visits to roughly 30 investment firms. The funding was intended to help with the development of Zhou’s technology, LT-NS001 and two other products. By 2007 the company had managed to in-license two other compounds, including a peptide that blocked TNF, a protein that plays a key role in rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. (Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 2007; Fink and Green interview, 2007; Hamilton, 2007)
The venture capital came with strings attached. It was given on the basis that the company move its headquarters to Boston. This was because investors believed the company stood a better chance of recruiting the managers and scientists it needed there. The move was a major upheaval for Green, who up to that point had spent her whole life solely in Pittsburgh, but she relished the new adventure.
In late 2007 Green relocated with Logical Therapeutics to Waltham in Massachusetts, where it began its operations with ten employees. The first task was to reengineer LT-NS001 to reduce its gastrointestinal risks. Within a year the drug was ready for clinical testing. Green headed up the clinical trials. Initial results from a phase I/II clinical trial run with 120 healthy volunteers, announced in October 2009, showed the drug to be highly promising. On the back of these results, Logical Therapeutics secured another $16.9 million to fund a mid-stage trial with 354 patients with arthritis in the U.S. and the U.K.(LT, press releases, April 2010 and 17 Oct 2009; Goldstein et al, 2010; Zacks, 2007)
Disappointingly the results from the next clinical trials, completed in 2010, were not as strong as hoped for. This led to the closure of the Logical Therapeutics. The company’s fortunes were not helped by the negative publicity surrounding Vioxx, a new painkiller produced by Merck, which was found to have unexpected cardiovascular risks. Adding to the company’s woes was the collapse of the financial market which hampered its effort to secure further funding. The $79.4 million raised over the lifetime of the company was far from sufficient to cover the development of the other products and keep the company running.
Following her time at Logical Therapeutics, Green went to work for Morningside Group. Set up by a Hong Kong based family in 1986, Morningside is a private equity and venture capital firm that specialises in providing seed funding for startups. In 2011 Green helped set up Morningside Technology Advisory group which was directed towards working on early stage life sciences investments. Green stayed with Morningside until 2014.
One of the companies Green helped set up through Morningside was Atreaon Inc. This was a virtual drug discovery company. She soon became the president and director of the company. Atheon’s business model was to in-license ideas where basic discoveries had already been made. Their first product was a novel engineered protein, Atsttrin, developed by researchers at New York University for the treatment of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. With one of her close family suffering from a similar disorder, the Atsttrin project was dear to Green’s heart. Green helped Atreaon secure $20 million in seed funding from venture capitalists to support Atsttrin’s preclinical development. The aim was to validate the data of the drug generated by others and then move it into clinically-enabling manufacturing and non-clinical studies. This necessitated first making sufficient quantities of the drug and then conducting studies to understand how the drug worked. All of the work was outsourced.(Miseta, 2013)
Another company Green became involved in through Morningside was Stealth Peptides (now Stealth BioTherapeutics). Founded in 2006 with technologies licensed from several academic institutions, Stealth Peptides had received more than $100 million investment from Morningside by 2015. Green joined the company as its chief operating officer of the company. The company’s focus was on the development of drugs for orphan mitochondrial diseases and diseases in major therapeutic categories involving mitochondrial dysfunction. (Stealth Biotherapeutics press release, 9 Jan 2009).
In 2015 Green changed direction to become Pfizer’s director of strategic investments. This was a major change for her because she had never worked for such a big company before. She quickly grasped the dynamics of Pfizer, however, and made her mark. Green’s role was to help Pfizer build out its new programme directed towards making equity investments in early stage companies on the cutting edge of scientific innovation that matched Pfizer’s core interests. Pfizer traditionally had little experience of partnering with startup companies, so needed someone to manage the initiative who had a passion for working with such companies. Green, known as a go-getter and ability to never get red tape get in her way, was an ideal candidate for such a venture. Within a year she had helped Pizer invest $46 million in four companies at the early stage of the discovery process. The companies were involved in the development of novel immuno-oncology drugs, neurodegenerative technologies and gene therapy.(Pfizer, press release, 8 Jan 2016) Sadly Green died at the age of 52 in April 2017, one and half years into the job. By the time of her death she had pulled together two further partnerships for Pfizer with startup companies, one focused on the development of RNA-targeting molecules (Adams, 2017).
Video credit: University of Pittsburgh, Entrepreneur's Experience
Green’s story is remarkable by virtue of the number of companies she helped found and lead. In addition, she served on a number of boards including NextCure Inc., Metabomed LLC and Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. She was also Entrepreneurial Fellow of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence at the University Of Pittsburgh Katz Graduate School Of Business.
Green’s achievements are particularly striking given the small number of women with senior leadership positions in the biotechnology industry. Just how much of a standout Green was can be seen from a study of 31 up-and-coming biotechnology start-ups. Carried out in 2016, this study showed that women occupied just 8 percent of board seats and just 26% of all leadership positions in biotechnology. Only 10% were either chief executives or chief operating officers.(Keshvan, 2016) Green’s involvement with Morningside and Pfizer’s strategic investments venture is equally impressive given how few women there are in the world of venture capital. One study in 2015 found that women comprised just 10% of partners in biotech venture capital firms.(Keshvan, 2016)
Part of Green’s success was down to her energy and ability to look and assess business situations very quickly. She also had a gift for knowing how to make constructive criticisms without ruffling feathers and to deliver a radical message in a non threatening manner. People greatly valued her calm and reasoned approach in meetings. Her ability to address both scientific and management audiences comfortably was also a huge advantage. This was aided by the confidence and skills she developed as a debater at school.
In addition to her own achievements, Green was renowned for the strong support and encouragement she gave to women in the biopharmaceutical sector. Just how much she did in this field can be judged from the fact that in October 2014 she was given the Catalyst Award from the Science Club for Girls in recognition of her work in advancing women in science and entrepreneurship. Frustrated by company boards being made up mostly of men, Green was always looking for ways to move women forward. For her the answer did not lie in offering women more training, because, as she said, they already possessed the expertise to sit on a board, but rather to change the culture of men inside the boardroom.
Understanding the obstacles women faced in the biopharmaceutical sector and knowing how important it was to have good role-models, Green always made time to mentor and educate other women no matter how busy she was. She encouraged women to be tough and stand up for their convictions and emphasised how important it was for women to stick up for each other in meetings so that their voices were no longer ignored. This she did through various channels, including the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation and the Carnegie Mellon University – University of Pittsburgh Joint Healthcare Advisory Committee. She also coached and judged numerous business competitions for organisations like Springboard, a network of innovators, investors and influencers committed to creating high-growth technology-oriented companies led by women. In addition she was a coach and mentor in the Women in Bio Boardroom Ready Project, and was a co-host of BioPharma Executive Council’s Increasing Diversity event. Green was also the founding member and chair of The New England Women in Science Executives Club (NEWISE), a network of more than 70 female entrepreneurs and senior executives in biopharma created to help women connect for professional and personal growth.(bizwomen)
This article was written by Lara Marks with generous input from Donata Barber, Sarah Cardozo Duncan, Babs Carryer, Adam Green, Laurie Halloran, Sree Kant, Mark Leuchtenberger, Ivana Magovcevic-Liebisch, Barbara Sosnowski and Lara Sullivan.
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