WEST Wisdom Blog

Meet Our API Trailblazers

Posted by Courtney Cyron on May 20, 2024 4:01:45 PM

WEST is thrilled to have such a diverse community of STEM professionals. We are honored to be able to highlight several leading STEM women as part of our Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebration. You won’t want to miss this panel discussion featuring API trailblazers who will be sharing about their experiences, current positions, and advice they have for those of similar backgrounds with goals of making contributions through work in STEM industries. For a little preview, see our Q&A session with panelist Crystal Shih Byers below!

This panel will be Moderated by: 

Lesley Chan- bluebird bio

chan headshot (1) Lesley Chan is Senior Director, CMC lead of Sickle Cell Disease Program at bluebird bio. She received degrees focusing on bioengineering from the University of Toronto and National University of Singapore, and most recently, a degree focusing on Engineering Management from Tufts University. In her career, she’s been focused on developing commercially viable and efficient manufacturing processes in the field of regenerative medicine and gene therapy. Beginning with hands-on lab work, and more recently, in team and project leadership positions to deliver next-generation processes and to bring potentially transformative therapies to patients in the clinic.

This panel will feature: 

Ann Lee, PhD- Prime Medicine

Ann Lee Ann Lee, PhD is the Chief Technical Officer of Prime Medicine. Ann is an accomplished biotech executive with 35 years of biopharma and biotech experiences across multiple modalities of vaccines, biologics, small molecules cell therapy development and gene editing CMC development and manufacturing. She has a passion for helping patients, innovating new technologies, and developing employees. Over the course of her career, she has contributed to the licensure and commercialization of 25 new vaccines and medicines, with the most recent being two CAR T cell therapies. 

Ann previously worked at BMS, which acquired Celgene and Juno Therapeutics. Ann joined Juno Therapeutics in 2017 as Executive VP of Technical Operations to work in the new field of cell and gene therapy. She built the global Cell Therapy Development and Operations organization to more than 200 employees responsible for developing new manufacturing processes and technologies, manufacturing, quality assurance, designing new facilities, and creating the global supply chain network and digital systems to deliver these autologous products. 

Ann was at Genentech in 2005 as VP of Process R&D and became SVP and Head of Global Technical Development at Roche in 2009. She and her team of close to 3000 global staff were responsible for delivering Roche's global R&D pipeline, as well as tech transfer and technical support for all commercial products. She was a member of corporate strategic portfolio governance committees and worked extensively cross-functionally as well as with external partners across the globe. 

Prior to Genentech, Ann was at Merck Research Laboratories, where she advanced through several leadership positions in vaccine development over 14 years. She then became Vice President of Chemical Technology and Engineering in the Manufacturing Division at Merck, overseeing process engineering and technical operations at 10 chemical sites around the world. 

Ann is an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering. She is the recipient of many scientific and engineering awards and has served on several professional, academic, and company boards. She holds a B.S in chemical engineering from Cornell University, and a Ph.D. in biochemical engineering from Yale University.

Nivedita Panch- Blavatnik Harvard Life Lab Longwood

nivedita panch Nivedita Panch is an Indian-born scientist, holds a background in engineering in biotechnology and a master's degree in Neuroscience. Her research career began with a focus on metabolism and behavior, transitioning into oncology with a specialization in Cowden syndrome. Now, as the Site Manager of the Blavatnik Harvard Life Lab at Harvard Medical School, she oversees operations, leveraging her expertise to foster innovation and collaboration.

Crystal Shih Byers- 8VC NewCo

CSB profile pic Crystal Shih Byers is a second-generation Taiwanese American, born in Wisconsin, and raised in Michigan. Crystal was raised by somewhat open-minded parents who started more Taiwanese and ended up more Taiwanese-American. This was challenging, as she was constantly revising what it meant to be Taiwanese American, pitting her family’s shifting feedback against her daily experiences. 

Crystal started out shy. In math and science, Crystal found the vocabulary and prowess to gain confidence. In the learning process, she found a constant source of dopamine. Her drive to keep learning guides her decision-making today. It gives her unlimited chances to learn and to connect with others. Crystal brings an amiable, scientifically-informed beginner’s mindset to every new pivot she navigates and she constantly seeks change and new environments to keep growing. 

While Crystal is formally trained as a “chemist”, she sought exposure in multiple subdivisions in chemistry, from synthetic organic to biophysical. When she joined the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research in 2012, she applied her learner mindset in piloting the emerging mRNA-lipid nanoparticle platform. She has established a track record for paving translational roads for novel modalities and new technologies, most recently in the gene therapy space. Crystal has spent the last four years in the startup biotech space, where she relishes in the vibrant community and constantly changing landscape.


Q: Can you share a little bit about your background, such as what drives you to want to pursue a career in the STEM industries?

A: I grew up with an affinity for math, science, and puzzles, and had teachers who kept me constantly fascinated with the world around me. As a daughter of immigrants, I felt different and was shy to connect with my peers. Math and science made much more sense to me, and my proficiency gave me confidence. As I've grown in my career, I've gotten less shy as I found a common language to engage with others.

Q: Can you share about how your upbringing or experiences unique to your culture has influenced your everyday leadership or working style?

A: Because I was shy but curious, I observed others closely and liked to listen deeply. I still rely on this feeling and skill in meetings and conversations. It's made me more sensitive to actions that I can take to include others and help them be more visible. 

Q: If you could tell your younger self anything about your professional journey, what would it be?

A: Take a breath, there's no need to rush. Put down the textbook, and take in your surroundings. Enjoy the exciting people and science around you. 

Ponsi Trivisvavet- Inari

PONSI-TRIVISVAVET-2022Ponsi Trivisvavet is CEO & Director of Inari, the SEEDesignTM company using predictive design and advanced multiplex gene editing to unlock the full potential of seed. Her broad management expertise in global agriculture helps Ponsi to lead Inari closer to achieving its mission of helping to build a more sustainable global food system in the face of climate change. Prior to joining Inari, she held several leadership roles including president of North America Seeds with Syngenta after earning her MBA from Cornell University and working with McKinsey & Company.

You won’t want to miss these amazing women sharing their stories, insight, and advice. Join us on 5/23 at Bayer Co.Lab Cambridge to celebrate diversity and learn from these Trailblazers in Science & Technology. This panel will be moderated by Lesley Chan, Senior Director, CMC lead of Sickle Cell Disease Program, bluebird bio. Register to join us here.  

Topics: Leadership, STEM, Career, Panel, Culture, Industry, Role Models, Career Path, Inclusion, Diversity, #WESTevent, D&I, STEM Women

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