This editorial article is a part of Technical.ly's Women in Tech month.
In roundtables and at events, we’ve heard frequently the importance of identifying leaders in Baltimore’s biotech community who are developing science and building a business. The scientist-CEO must oversee continued lab work that goes along with preparing a product for regulatory approval and commercialization, as well as strategy to grow in the marketplace.
As CEO of Gemstone Biotherapeutics, Emily English holds that role.
English was named CEO in 2018, succeeding George Davis, who is now the CEO of TEDCO. Gemstone itself was founded in 2013, and licensed a portfolio of technology from Johns Hopkins University that was invented by professors Sharon Gerecht, Jeremy Walston and Peter Abadir. Based in South Baltimore with lab space at Johns Hopkins’ FastForward 1812, the company is looking to enter the wound care market by developing treatments to enable skin regeneration without scarring, returning all the properties of normal skin.
English told Technical.ly more about her path so far, and Gemstone’s work.
You started as a lab scientist at Johns Hopkins. What was your role there?
My first job after grad school was as a scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). I started as a laboratory chemist and then got into project and program management. By the time I left for the position at Gemstone, I was running a program worth about $6 million per year with a team of 30 to 40 scientists and engineers.
What did you learn in that role that you’re applying today at an early-stage company?
So much of my APL experience translates directly to running a small company — hitting milestones on time, managing budgets, working with interdisciplinary teams and relying on experts outside your field to help you make effective decisions. It’s given me a great base to build my entrepreneurial career on.
Can you describe your path to becoming CEO at Gemstone? Did transitioning from the lab require gaining additional skills?
My transition to CEO at Gemstone was a natural one. I was hired initially as COO at a time when the first CEO was transitioning out of the company. I picked up where he left off, and the move to CEO was organic both for me and for the board. I’ve had to be a quick study on some areas of managing an early stage biotech company, including the art of pitching (always a work in progress), development of effective IP strategy, and the creation of a commercialization plan that holds up to scrutiny. I’ve been fortunate to have support from great advisors and colleagues during this process.
Gemstone’s wound care product is built on unique science. Where are you finding it stands out as a commercial product?
Our market niche is in dermatology. We plan to launch our product for use on excision sites created by dermatology surgeries — biopsies, excisions and Mohs surgeries among others.
Besides funding, what’s a lesser-discussed resource in the local community that has helped Gemstone?
Our connection to Johns Hopkins University through FastForward has been critical. Through FastForward, we have access to JHU resources, especially instrumentation, that are crucial for our research and development. It would have been cost prohibitive for us to advance our science without this assistance, so having this connection to the university has been invaluable.
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