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Woman of the Week: Form Bio’s Claire Aldridge

Welcome to the Woman of the Week podcast, a weekly discussion that illuminates the unique stories of women leaders who are catalyzing change throughout the life sciences industry. You can check out all our podcast episodes here.

As the recently named chief strategy officer of Form Bio, Claire Aldridge says she’s been training 20 years for this role: solving problems with “really cool science.”

Form Bio’s model matches Aldridge’s brand, and she has been consistent in her message: “I don’t want to do bench science. Somebody else can do the science. My role is to figure out how to get science into the marketplace where it can change people’s lives.”

Her affinity for molecular genetics took shape during her university years, particularly during a class with an influential professor.

“This was very new and sexy science at the time,” she said. “I loved that class and I learned so much, and it just fed my soul. After the course was over, I talked to him and I got to do my senior research project in his lab.”

The research project centered on the effects of overfishing and the potential extinction of a species in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The question he was trying to answer was: Is there enough genetic diversity left … so that we don’t end up with a genetically non-diverse population? And I thought, ‘What an amazing practical application of this brand-new molecular biology,’” Aldridge said.

Fast-forward to the spinout of Form Bio from Colossal Bioscience late last year, which Aldridge was instrumental in facilitating. Colossal is the de-extinction company behind the theoretical genetic revival of the “woolly mammoth.” Form Bio provides a software platform for scientists to automate certain aspects of the discovery and breakthrough process.

“We’re not replacing scientists by any stretch of the imagination,” Aldridge said. “What we’re trying to do is to help them be more efficient — instead of having to do 800 compound designs, [they can] do five because we’ve done the (in) silico analysis.”

At the heart of what Form Bio and Aldridge are doing is nothing short of sparking a genomic revolution and rethinking the very complicated multistep processes of manufacturing gene therapies and reducing the inefficiency and cost.

“We have a ton of Ph.D.s in bioinformatics and machine learning, and then we have these exceptional user interface engineers, true software engineers — and we’ve all said we can do something so much more meaningful together,” she said. “I imagine everybody taking their backpacks out and shaking everything out, and then we mix it all up, and something new and pretty cool comes out of that. I love thinking about problems that haven’t been solved yet. I think the next five years are going to be really fun and we’re going to see some additional leaps that we can’t even imagine right now.”

In this episode of the Woman of the Week podcast, Aldridge talks about the “super cool” approach Form Bio is taking to change the trajectory of genomic science, her leadership philosophy to encourage innovation by creating freedom within a framework and why it’s important to build a community as part of a nonlinear, but successful career.

Welcome to WoW, the Woman of the Week podcast by PharmaVoice powered by Industry Dive.

In this episode, Taren Grom, editor and chief emeritus at PharmaVoice, meets with Claire Aldridge, chief strategy officer at Form Bio.

Taren: Claire, welcome to the WoW podcast program.

Claire: Oh my gosh, thank you so much for having me. I’m so thrilled to be here.

Taren: Well, I’m excited to dig in with you. I’m very intrigued by Form Bio and its strategic mission; and as its chief strategy officer, tell me about the company and its spinout.

Claire: So Form Bio is the first spinout from Colossal Biosciences, and Colossal Biosciences is well-known as the woolly mammoth of de-extinction company. But on the way to de-extincting a woolly mammoth, the entrepreneurs who were part of the founding team of Colossal are software developers. They’ve had multiple software companies and multiple exits in that space, and they really brought that sophisticated software development to molecular biology. And I think that’s something we’ve been missing in our space is people who think about the user interface and think about things from that software development perspective, that adding that and combining that with the bioinformatics and molecular biology really is something special.

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