Three women with ties to CIRM featured in 2022 Women in Biopharma list 

Endpoints News released its 2022 Women in Biopharma list, which recognizes 20 of the top women leading biopharma research and development (R&D).  

This year, the publication received more than 500 entries and selected 20 women “who have blazed trails and are still promising to reshape biopharma R&D for years to come.” 

There are many amazing finalists featured this year, but three in particular stood out for their ties to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). Those three are:  

Jennifer Gordon, Ph.D. — Senior Vice President of Research and Development at Excision BioTherapeutics 

Dr. Jennifer Gordon and the team at Excision Bio Therapeutics have developed a therapeutic candidate called EBT-101. CIRM is funding a clinical trial to test EBT-101 in patients with HIV. 

This is the first clinical study using the CRISPR-based platform for genome editing and excision of the latent form of HIV-1, the most common form of the virus that causes AIDS in the US and Europe.  

The goal of the treatment is to eliminate or sufficiently reduce the hidden reservoirs of virus in the body to the point where the individual is effectively cured. 

Barbara Wirostko — Co-founder and CMO at Qlaris Bio 

Barbara Wirostko is the co-founder and CMO at Qlaris Bio, a clinical stage biotech company committed to developing therapies for patients suffering from serious and debilitating ophthalmic diseases.  

In addition to her work there, Barbara is a member of CIRM’s Grants Working Group (GWG), which is responsible for evaluating the scientific merit of all applications submitted to CIRM and provides funding recommendations to the CIRM board.  

In the Endpoints News profile, Wirostko shares that she was inspired by her father, also an ophthalmologist, and his desire to help people. 

“I think that was the other thing that really drew me to ophthalmology — is that you were able to work with patients, make a difference in people’s lives, also have a surgical as well as a medical aspect, practicing medicine, and then also have a family,” she said. 

Dr. Lili Yang – UCLA associate professor, Co-founder of Appia Bio and Immune Design 

We’ve written about Dr. Lili Yang’s work on the Stem Cellar blog.  

Dr. Yang at UCLA was recently awarded $1.4 million by CIRM to develop an off-the-shelf cell therapy for ovarian cancer, which causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. 

With support from several CIRM grants, Dr. Yang has developed a platform that can use healthy donor blood stem cells to produce clinical scalable “off-the-shelf” iNKT cells. That has led to the creation of start-up company Appia Bio, and talks with the FDA about testing a series of iNKT cell products in clinical trials. 

“I have this dream that cell therapy can become off-the-shelf, and how this would really help all cancer patients in need. The current cancer cell therapy requires treating patients one-by-one, resulting in a steep price that is hard to afford,” Dr. Yang says.  

“Not everyone lives near a hospital capable of handling such a personalized therapy or can afford such a steep price. If we can make this therapy with centralized manufacturing, pre-quality controlled and ready for wide use then we don’t need to worry about the gender or age or location of the patient.” 


CIRM congratulates all the extraordinary women featured in the Endpoints News 2022 Women in Biopharma list. To see all the finalists, read the official announcement here or visit the Endpoints News website.  

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