Success in the world of business demands a diverse range of talents. It is the personal passion and determination of individuals that empower them to attain their desired goals. Regardless of the industry, the combination of a dreamer’s vision and the passion to win seldom are essential prerequisites.
The field of biotechnology, in particular, has been transformed through the efforts of such bright and resolute professionals so as to be almost unrecognizable from a few decades ago.
One such inspiring businesswoman who has driven the pace of change with her astute innovations is Elena Hitraya M.D., Ph.D. Elena is the chief medical officer (CMO) at Crescendo Bioscience, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Myriad Genetics, Inc., that provides quantitative, objective molecular diagnostics testing aimed at giving rheumatologists deeper clinical insights into biology of rheumatoid arthritis.
Curiosity and Determination
Elena was born in Ukraine but received her early education in Siberia. Even then, she was passionate about science. This passion led her to study at the Semmelweis Medical University in Budapest, Hungary, one of the oldest medical schools in Europe.
She admits that studying medicine in Hungarian language was grueling, but her curiosity and determination to be the best motivated her to succeed. When she graduated summa cum laude, Elena decided she wanted to be a physician-scientist.
She returned to Russia to complete her training in rheumatology and defend her Ph.D. thesis at the Institute of Rheumatology of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences in Moscow.
She recalls that the brilliance of women mentors inspired her to choose this vertical, adding that Professor Carol Black from the Royal Free Hospital influenced her the most. Prof. Black was the one who advised Elena to look for a research opportunity abroad, a decision that changed Elena’s life.
Her United States journey began with a scholarship offered from the Division of Rheumatology at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, where she studied mechanisms that lead to inflammation and fibrosis. Such research motivated Elena to think about bringing the scientific advances to improve patient care.
That motivation led her to take a position at Centocor, a biotechnology company now part of Johnson & Johnson. It was an innovative organization which was developing the first biological drug – anti-tumor necrosis factor inhibitor (a-TNF inhibitor) to treat various immune-mediated diseases.
Elena says that the years of experience at Centocor developed her as a professional and paved the way for her to join the world’s leading biotechnology company, Genentech/Roche, as an Immunology/Rheumatology Medical lead.
During her twelve years at Genentech/Roche, she worked on the development and commercialization of multiple drugs, progressively handling greater responsibilities.
Creating Vision, Generating Data and Hiring Right
The pharmaceutical and biotech world is highly competitive, and the development of a single biological drug takes years and up to a billion dollars in cost.
Most diagnostics companies are small; many of them are start-ups, and they do not have such large resources. Instead, they rely on innovation, speed, creativity, and collaboration with academia, the medical community and financiers to create a path forward.
“That’s what we need to focus on – how we can bring innovation to patients and physicians now,” says Elena.
Elena observes the market keenly and aligns the company vision with patients and market needs. As the CMO, she creates a vision matched to the utility of a product or test to patients and physicians. She also strategizes, designs and conducts clinical research studies to demonstrate the scientific validity and benefits of particular products such as the company’s leading test called Vectra DA.
She also is responsible for generating data for clients to demonstrate the utility and superiority of Crescendo’s products. However, Elena believes that hiring the right individuals are the most important duties she performs at the company because they exponentially accelerate growth rates.
Elena says that her prime motivation is her family, especially her daughter who is training to be a pediatrician, her grandson who reminds her to stay curious and explore the world, and her parents who early on inspired a strong believe in herself. She makes it a point to find time for herself, and usually uses this time to exercise, read and think, which allows her to recharge and to perform at her best.
Elena highlights some qualities that have empowered her as person and help to become a resilient business woman. One has not to be afraid to be a pioneer, has to follow science, have to be passionate about the profession, must be inspired by the people and the atmosphere that surrounds them. According to her, it is important to be resilient as nothing worthwhile comes easy, but the harder the road to the summit, the sweeter the success. She also advises aspiring entrepreneurs to acquire these abilities to improve their chances of success, and serves as a mentor to young women in biotechnology and diagnostics industry.
Crescendo Bioscience – Transforming Patient Lives
The company aspires to be a trusted advisor transforming patients’ lives worldwide with pioneering molecular diagnostics.
The company is committed to answering patients’ four most pressing questions in six therapeutic areas:
Will I get a disease?
Do I have a disease?
Should I treat this disease?
How should I treat this disease?
Crescendo hopes that its products will help millions of patients worldwide. Elena aims to bring the company’s innovations to more patients than ever before by globalizing its reach and making sure its products are accessible to patients.