Women in STEM: “I work very hard and when I’m done working I work more” with Laura Towart and Fotis Georgiadis

People romanticize the idea of being a dreamer. It’s wonderful to be a dreamer but dreaming alone won’t get you far. I work very hard and when I’m done working I work more. I love the feeling I get when I see my hard work having a positive effect. Nothing has ever come easy for […]

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People romanticize the idea of being a dreamer. It’s wonderful to be a dreamer but dreaming alone won’t get you far. I work very hard and when I’m done working I work more. I love the feeling I get when I see my hard work having a positive effect. Nothing has ever come easy for me and consistent hard work has been the only path for me.

As a part of my series featuring accomplished women in STEM, I had the pleasure of interviewing Laura Towart. Laura is the Founder and CEO of My Personal Therapeutics, a London based digital health company offering the most advanced personalized cancer therapeutics. Laura is also the Founder and former CEO of Celmatix, a leader in diagnostics and predictive analytics for female infertility and women’s health. Laura is a graduate of the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Doctoral program and received a Certificate in Bioinformatics. Laura holds a BS/BA in Biology/English from The George Washington University.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My childhood Christmas lists included things like microscope, telescope, slide mounting kit, dissection kit (for bugs), and a chemistry set. Things didn’t change much as I got older. I’ve always been certain I wanted to use my scientific knowledge to either critically evaluate emerging technologies or develop and commercialize my own innovations. While I was in the PhD program at Weill Cornell Grad School of Medical Sciences, I was a founding member of Club Biomed- a biotech/pharma investment club that students and faculty could join, evaluate, and purchase pharma/biotech stocks. I also participated in the NY Academy of Sciences course “From Idea to IPO” and it lit an entrepreneurial fire in me!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

One of the best things that happened to me is that I applied to the SOSV Rebel Bio accelerator program and got rejected. I was disappointed by the rejection but assumed it was because we were more advanced than other applicants and beyond acceleration stage. I reluctantly went to the event they hosted where the community can meet the companies they did select. Fortunately, I ended up meeting the founder of Rebel Bio, Bill Liao, who agreed to help me outside of the program and who is now our Chairman.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I don’t find any of my mistakes funny… But in hindsight one moment that stands out happened when I brought the inventor of the Personal Discovery Process technology from Mt Sinai to give a lecture and meet a prospective investor/partner in Saudi Arabia. After a day of successful lectures we were taken to dinner by the investor and his friends. He drove us back to the hotel in his Lamborghini and proceeded to make low ball partnership agreement offers and basically insulted both myself and the inventor — while driving seemingly recklessly down the streets of Riyadh. We had a heated exchange after.. It’s fair to say that partnership wasn’t successful!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our platform is unique because it can be used to identify novel drug combinations for any genetic disease.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are working on so many exciting projects!! One of the most interesting to me is that we can model co-morbidities in flies. For example, we can model a patient who is diabetic AND has colorectal cancer. We know that diabetes will play a role in altering the polypharmacoligcal response of a patient. We will be able to demonstrate that diabetic patients should receive different drug treatment recommendations for cancer.

Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?

I’ve seen a number of positive changes over the years to encourage women in STEM. As the mother of 2 young girls I am very aware that the world is changing positively to provide support and guidance. Of course there is still more to be done.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Listen to your team and ensure every team member feels heard and valued. Invest in your team’s education by sending them to conferences, giving them chances to improve their skillsets by paying for coursework/training sessions. Always provide opportunities for team members to step up and take on more responsibility.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Think about your org chart and reporting structures before making hires to ensure you’re hiring at the right level (jr or sr). Make sure that Senior management communicate not only what is happening successfully but also what the team is struggling with. It is important to not waste time trying to fix something that isn’t essential. Don’t hire people without a clear understanding of their role, and how it fits in with the company’s goals.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Many people have helped me get to where I am today. The road to success for me wasn’t a direct path and I’m truly grateful to have a family and friends that support me. My parents provide solid ground beneath my feet and make me feel supported wherever I am in the world. My children support me in ways I could’ve never imagined and they make me feel like I can accomplish anything! I’m very lucky.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I’m very proud to have created the My Personal Therapeutics Foundation, a UK registered charity with a mission to provide personalized cancer therapeutics and also therapeutics for those with rare genetic diseases who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it. The Foundation works closely with MPT (company) to identify patients and provide financial support. I’m currently on the Foundation Board. The Company launched the foundation with £15k funding to support the first patients.

And I’ve brought 3 amazing, loving, responsible humans into this world- Julian, Valentina and Delphine.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience as a Woman in STEM” and why?

  1. Listen first, think again and then speak
  2. Don’t always listen ☺
  3. Persist.. as long as you can
  4. Work harder than you think you can
  5. Be active in the community- attend all local industry related events and network and also be a mentor to a young entrepreneur scientist

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I wish people would refuse to use Styrofoam.. I do..

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Action is what separates the do-ers from the dreamers.” 
 — Lennox Lewis

People romanticize the idea of being a dreamer. It’s wonderful to be a dreamer but dreaming alone won’t get you far. I work very hard and when I’m done working I work more. I love the feeling I get when I see my hard work having a positive effect. Nothing has ever come easy for me and consistent hard work has been the only path for me.

Another one of my favorites is “When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.” I believe what I’m doing is important and I will do it as long as I’m given the opportunity.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Melinda Gates. Recently the Gates foundation provided support to Celmatix, the women’s health company I co-founded. I am very grateful for this assistance. Now, as we launch the My Personal Therapeutics Foundation, I have many questions and would appreciate her guidance. She is a true leader and role model.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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