The Three Women Poised To Boost Philly’s Life-Sciences Profile

By Diane Mastrull

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Meet the three women poised to boost Philadelphia’s Life-Sciences community. The leaders of “Militia Hill Ventures” are focused on launching and growing early-stage, cutting edge, biotech companies.

Katie McGinty waged a campaign drawing national attention to become Pennsylvania’s first female senator, coming up short against Republican incumbent Pat Toomey in the most expensive Senate race in history.

But in a conference room last week at a University City coworking space, she was perhaps the least of the rock stars at the table.

McGinty sat with two women of considerable acclaim in Philadelphia’s life-sciences community: Jane Holmes Hollingsworth and Joan Lau. “Remarkable citizens” and “proven to be leaders in many dimensions,” Stephen Tang, president and chief executive officer of University City Science Center, said of them in an interview a day later.

Each has led and successfully grown life-sciences companies. For Hollingsworth, those included NuPathe and Auxilium; for Lau, Locus Pharmaceuticals and Azelon Pharmaceuticals.

After a couple of years trying, with others, to raise the profile of Philadelphia’s life-sciences sector, in part by trying to encourage West Coast venture funds to open offices here, Hollingsworth and Lau made a decision over a round of golf in fall 2013.

They formed Militia Hill Ventures to launch and grow early-stage biotechnology companies focused on innovative medicines. They named it for the golf course at the Philadelphia Cricket Club, where they were playing that inspiration-fueled September day, and for the site of a Revolutionary War battle that proved pivotal for Gen. George Washington.

“That was the turning point of the war,” Hollingsworth said, drawing a parallel to what Militia Hill wants to accomplish for the region’s life-sciences economy. “This is the turning point.”

“We just decided one of the real needs here was actively building companies as well as creating a core physical space … where we could bring the various constituents together: the universities, the investors, the entrepreneurs, pharma, all in one place on a regular basis,” she said.

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