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InnoStars Talks: Innovation brings change

23rd February 2021

„We need to reshape biotech industry to be in favour of both genders”, says Monika Paule, PhD, CEO and Co-Founder at CasZyme, a Lithuanian start-up working on gene editing. Monika has PhD in Social Sciences and is experienced in high tech business development and technology transfer in the biotech industry. She shared her lessons learnt during the 2020 EIT Health WE Capsule, a woman empowering initiative for C-suite female leaders from Central, Eastern and Southern European regions.

The presence of women in the high tech sector and the biotechnological industry is still not a common thing. Why did you decide to choose this kind of career path? What was your motivation?

I was always inspired by innovations and businesses that make significant change for the wellbeing of the society. Pharma, biotech industries always interested and attracted me, thus my career path led from pharma companies to biotech companies as well as technology transfer between academia and business. However, biotechnology is a very tough area to develop a successful business. For a product to enter a market usually takes more than 10 years. Also this industry is very unpredictable because of research and development risks. I am capable to translate the research into business, which keeps me in the biotech industry.

You are CEO and co-founder of CasZyme – a successful Lithuanian start-up in the field of genetics. Your company aims to develop new discoveries, innovative applications and top-quality research in the field of CRISPR system[1]. What do you enjoy most about innovation, especially gene-editing? What is your vision of its future?

At CasZyme we develop the most novel CRISPR Cas gene editing technology, which can be applied in various industries from human therapeutics (treatment of rare diseases and cancer) to diagnostics, from industrial biotechnology to agriculture. This technology will make a major change in different industries and will be applied very wide, what really fascinates me. I think innovations bring change to how we live, how our societies develop and should be aimed at making a positive impact on the future.

In the public discourse there are arguments showing that women face a lot of obstacles especially in the STEM industries and their professional journeys in science. What was the most challenging barrier you had to overcome so far? What would you like to change in this field?

Being a female CEO in the biotech industry is still very rare, thus I always had to work much harder than others to achieve my goals. I always had to prove myself and I also had to overcome cultural and gender barriers. My goal is to encourage women to enter the biotech industry to develop their ideas, to establish biotech companies and together reshape this industry to be in favor of both genders.

In your opinion, what personal characteristics do you feel are necessary to be a successful female entrepreneur?

If a female entrepreneur wants to be successful, she has to be very hard-working, very determined to achieve her goals, very flexible to be able to adjust to different cultural norms and always ready for facing very difficult obstacles.

What advice would you give to all women and young girls (especially from emerging regions) who are thinking about entering the STEM fields and choosing a career as entrepreneurs but feel hesitant about it?

Young girls will do their careers in a different world, where STEM disciplines are already less masculine, where women scientists, engineers, IT developers are much more common. I would advise them to go after their dreams and interests, to avoid any gender biases, to trust themselves and work very hard because girls can also do that and they can achieve whatever they want, especially in the STEM field.

InnoStars Talks is a series of interviews with healthcare innovators. They present inspiring stories of people involved in the EIT Health Community. As EIT Health InnoStars we look for personal experiences of people engaged in our projects who are willing to share their stories and lessons learnt. There have been eight projects realized so far, e.g. an interview with EIT Health Hub in Czechia and its initiatives to fight back COVID-19,an interview with Health Venture Lab by GE Healthcare about accelerating CEE region, an interview with TeiaCare, or a talk with Dora Marosvolgyi, EIT Health InnoStars Project Manager.

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