Rachel King was enjoying her retirement.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, King found herself with a chance to refocus and ask herself what was really important to her. “I was working from home during the pandemic when my husband, and I suddenly found our home filled with our daughter, son-in-law, and eventually, a new grandchild,” she recalled during an exclusive interview with Bio.News.
Her decision came at the culmination of a long and impressive career as a businesswoman who helped biotechnology companies grow and thrive.
But there was one opportunity worthwhile enough for King to break her retirement.
“The bar was incredibly high,” she said of her decision to become interim CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) in October 2022. “I asked myself, is it meaningful and is it going to be fun?”
“BIO checks both of those boxes,” she said. “I surprised some of my friends with my decision to come out of retirement to help, but the work we are doing here is important enough to make that leap.”
A meaningful career
“When I was a kid, I had a microscope and a dissecting kit at home. And while I eventually ended up going to business school, I always had that first love of biology as a touch point,” King said.
“When I got my start at the Bain and Company management consulting firm in Boston, I was assigned to a project that had a little bit of a biotech twist to it. That project was my first inkling that it was possible to combine my interest in business with my interest in biology, and that led to the beginning of what became a career in biotechnology.”
Her career blossomed from there. King was Vice President of Product Planning, and later CEO, of Genetic Therapy, Inc, after the company was acquired by Novartis. She later became Senior Vice President at Novartis, running their Washington office. In 2003, she became co-founder and CEO of GlycoMimetics, which she helmed until 2021, when she retired. She is still a member of the Board of Directors at GlycoMimetics, and is also on the Board of Directors at Novavax.
Throughout much of her career, King embraced another important partnership—one with BIO. King has been a BIO Board member since 2005, and she was Chair of the Board from 2013–2015.
King on serving as BIO Chair: “It was truly one of the highlights of my career because I had a phenomenal opportunity to work directly with colleagues, be educated in detail about the policy issues, testify before Congress, and participate at the BIO conventions. It was challenging, fun, and overall, a great experience.”
Where business, science, and policy meet
BIO has long been a home for King in her pursuit to combine business, science, and policy to bring and keep biotech innovation at the forefront of the American landscape, a pursuit aligned with BIO’s mission.
“When I worked for Novartis in their Washington office, it became more and more clear to me that we need public support for what we do in the biotech industry,” King explained.
King on the need to support biotech innovation: “We need to find ways to communicate complex opportunities, therapies, and policy issues in ways that are meaningful to people because we need public support. As an industry, we need to have educated, engaged citizens because we live in a democracy. People want to make informed decisions, which means that they need to have an organization that they can trust to get their information.
BIO is, and has been, an organization that can be trusted to communicate the complexity of the industry in a way that really takes into account the need to support innovation, do what’s right for patients, and support our connection to other people and industries who benefit from our technology.”
As BIO moves forward with its search for a new CEO, King is supporting BIO in three major ways:
- Empowering BIO’s policy and advocacy teams, especially as the industry helps shape the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act and affect future policy proposals with potential impacts on biotech;
- Supporting and strengthening all of BIO’s teams and organizational capabilities as its staff educates leaders and the public about policies and how biotech can transform our society; and,
- Laying the groundwork for the next BIO leader, who will take the organization even higher.
She also understands the next BIO leader will mirror the organization’s greatest resource—its people. King reflects:
“I think BIO is strong for a few key reasons. The key reason for our strength is because of the people here. BIO has an outstanding group of people at its core.
“Another aspect to BIO’s strength is its members. We have a phenomenal and diverse membership composed of companies that are really doing important things. We are not an incidental industry; we are an industry that really affects people’s lives.
“And lastly, we have a strong and committed board that is genuinely interested in what it can do to move the industry forward. In this critical interim period, I will focus on consistency, stability, and with an eye toward building on the purpose-driven mission of BIO.
“I am passionate about the potential of biotechnology to build a better future. I know and believe in the biotech industry and am excited to help drive BIO’s mission and foster further successes and initiatives.”