Honoring Female Innovators During Women’s History Month

“It is important to make a dream of life and of a dream reality.” 

Marie Sklodowska Curie

March is Women’s History Month, specifically designated to honor women’s contributions to history.

Marie Curie is one of history’s most inspiring women. She discovered polonium and radium. Her research led to the development of x-ray machines. She was the first woman to win a Nobel prize. She was the first (and one of only four people) to ever win more than one Nobel prize. She is the only person to earn Nobel honors for achievement in two separate sciences (physics and chemistry). Further, Dr. Curie and her daughter, Irène, are the only mother/daughter Nobel Laureates.

Marie Curie’s scientific discoveries earned awards, but she also was committed to moving research from bench to practical applications. Her work in developing x-ray technology and her service as the Director of the Red Cross Radiology Service resulted in medical treatment of an estimated 1 million soldiers during World War I.

Like Dr. Curie did more than a hundred years ago, numerous women innovators and entrepreneurs are making modern-day, scientific history in Central Ohio. Here are a few examples from Rev1’s portfolio.

Myonexus, a spinout from Nationwide Children’s Hospital (acquired last month by Sarepta Therapeutics for $165 million) was co-founded by Louise Rodino-Klapac, PhD. Dr. Rodino-Klapac’s renowned work in molecular genetics and gene therapy has involved 11 investigational new drug applications for gene therapy.

Melissa D. Bailey, OD, PhD, is the inventor of patented technology commercialized as The Eye-Scan App (TESA) marketed by Ohio State spinout Sight4All. TESA turns an iPhone7+ (or the latest Android phone) into tools to help licensed eye care providers better serve their patients. Dr. Bailey’s second startup is Lentechs, also a Rev1-backed OSU spinout that is developing a novel soft bifocal contact lens.

Joan Leonard, chief product officer of Redbud Software, another OSU spinout, conceived and built the RedBud product during her management career at OSU as an expert in indoor growing operations and greenhouse management.

Rachel Angel, Doctor of Pharmacy and founder of Anexsis, developed Peero®, a mobile platform used by young people who are seeking hourly work as a path to obtaining more highly compensated jobs. Employers gain access to this pipeline of vetted talent.

Jane Fife, PhD, is the chief science officer of 3 Bar Biologics, a cutting-edge biotech company that helps improve the quantity and quality of crop production with the most viable and cost-effective biological microbe solutions. Dr. Fife’s research focuses on improving the formulation and delivery of biologics.

It wasn’t easy for Dr. Curie to become a scientist. Despite her outstanding early academic achievements, the University of Warsaw was men-only. But she figured out a way. While she supported herself as a governess and tutor, she continued her education by reading about physics, chemistry, and math and in underground classes taught in secret, before eventually moving to France and gaining advanced degrees at the Sorbonne.

The playing field still isn’t level for women innovators and entrepreneurs. Women are under-represented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education and opportunities. Approximately 2 percent of U.S. venture capital goes to women entrepreneurs. Only 10 percent of VC firms have female investors.

Other investors may choose to miss out, but Rev1 is intentional about tapping into every source of talent—especially women and minorities. The data speaks loud and clear. Diverse companies perform better. In 2018, half of our capital investments were made in companies with diverse leadership.

We salute the five women mentioned here as well as the many others making scientific breakthroughs and starting up advanced technology companies in Central Ohio.