In Boston this week, CHF and the Biotechnology Industry Organization collaborated to confer the 14th annual Biotechnology Heritage Award. This year’s awardee, Dr. Nancy Chang, is the first woman to be inducted in the Biotechnology Hall of Fame. Like many previous awardees, her life has been one of overcoming obstacles, rising above circumstances, being inspired, and finally, being an inspiration to others.
Dr. Chang’s parents came to Taiwan for their honeymoon in 1950 and were not allowed to return to the mainland. The family struggled in impoverished circumstances, but Nancy excelled in school and won a scholarship to Brown University. She left Taiwan with two essential possessions: $50 and hope. On the long flight over, she read James Watson’s penetrating memoir The Double Helix and decided to pursue a degree in science.
After Brown she went to Harvard Medical School for a Ph.D., followed by a post-doc studying interferon. At Harvard she described herself as taking the first bus in the morning and the last bus home.
In 1986, while she and her husband were professors in Texas, Nancy had an idea of how to fight the allergies they suffered. The idea became a startup company: Tanox. The company pioneered the use of humanized antibodies that target the B cells involved in allergic asthma, and were rewarded with the landmark FDA approval of Xolair in 2003.
Two decades later Genentech acquired her company and now Nancy lives in Houston, following three passions: investing in healthcare entrepreneurs, performing philanthropic work in community health education projects, and immensely enjoying time spent with her two daughters and two granddaughters.
Tom Tritton is President and CEO of CHF.
More Professional Firsts for Women [Periodic Tabloid]