On July 30th, I had the pleasure of moderating a virtual panel on Antibody Discovery and the Pandemic for the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of Women in Bio (an event I joined via Zoom from our new headquarters in Santa Clara). At the beginning of 2020, our goal here at Antibody Solutions was to host a networking and professional development event on the last Thursday of each month: January was our grand opening . . . February was our inaugural “Bits, Bites and Brews” event . . . and March was, well, you can guess what happened there.
So it felt like a victory to have networking activity back on the schedule in July. And I couldn’t have asked for a better panel.
We had tools for antibody discovery covered from the beginning, thanks to Heather Schwoebel from Alloy Therapeutics. Jennifer Somera from our shop and Kat Harris from TeneoBio combined to walk us through the tools used to create therapeutic antibody candidates. Vanessa Soros from Tizona Therapeutics then rounded out our discussion with her experience taking potential therapeutic antibodies into clinical trials. (A disclaimer: I’m new at moderating, and we all met a couple of times on Zoom with our reps from WIB — Jayamary Divya Ravichandar and Caitlin Quigley — to help us formulate a cohesive and coherent plan for our panel.)
I think we found a good balance between the technical and human challenges we’re all facing — from sourcing materials and services (with an eye on the potential possible pandemic hot-spot interruptions) to back-to-back Zoom meetings (often with kids in the same room, trying to keep up with their online classes). I really wanted to hear about interviewing and hiring online, how to keep the lab up and running from a distance, how to keep everyone motivated and engaged and in-touch with no touching, how to keep from losing your mind . . . and it was “check, check, check” and “check.” Our panelists had strategies for all of those — and a lot more.
After our panel, we each led a breakout room for networking. There were seven folks in my room. The feedback regarding the panel discussion was positive, so I was grateful and relieved. I was also delighted that two of the attendees in my session were very young women — middle-school age and high-school age — who were willing to share their interests and plans with us. It was great to hear from them how they are coping with the pandemic. The whole experience for me was fun and inspiring; those young women in my room really gave me such hope.
To briefly give out some big and important shoutouts:
First, to our own Debra Valsamis, who is essentially a ninja who can do anything from anywhere. She completely set up this event — making contact with WIB, wrangling our terrific panelists, and coaching and encouraging Jennifer and me. (Heck, right after our panel, she hopped onto a Zoom PTA meeting. A NINJA!)
Second, to my colleague, Jennifer Somera, for saying “Sure!” when asked to participate, despite, when probably silently thinking, “What have I done?!” She is a great representative for our company, having started here as a research associate fresh out of college and is now our newest (and first female) Project Manager.
Third, to our aforementioned Women in Bio reps/whisperers, Divya and Caitlin, who really helped us formulate a great discussion with calm, patience and humor.
Finally, to our panel — Heather, Kat and Vanessa, who freely gave us their time and candidly shared their experiences and ideas. They are really fun to hang out with on Zoom, and I simply can’t wait until we can all hang out together in real time in the same room.
This is an amazing time to be doing science. Period. For me, it’s always been about working toward improving the health and wellbeing of others. What better calling could there be? I think about the changes that I’ve seen in my almost 40 years in the healthcare industry, the last 25 of them here at Antibody Solutions. I think about the young women in my breakout room, and marvel at the changes that they will see and be a part of in the next 25 years. And I think about the myriad of challenges we’re facing in the here-and-now — this really, truly is an amazing time to be doing science.
Thanks for reading and all of you take extra-good care. Don’t forget, VOTE.