Wednesday, December 17, 2014

America's Highest Paid Female Executive and Her Unusual Path to Pharma

Today's guest post comes from Rahlyn Gossen. She is the founder of Rebar Interactive, a clinical trial patient recruitment and digital marketing company. Rahlyn also maintains a blog, newsletter, and Twitter profile focusing on digital strategy for clinical trials.

“Futurist, pharma tycoon, satellite entrepreneur, philosopher. Martine Rothblatt, the highest-paid female executive in America, was born male. But that is far from the thing that defines her. Just ask her wife. Then ask the robot version of her wife.”

While reading the introduction of an online New York magazine profile of Martine Rothblatt, I wondered how accurately it reflected the content of the full article. As someone who reads a lot on the Internet, I’ve come into contact with my share of sensationalistic and hyperbolic hooks. But by that point my curiosity was piqued, so I continued reading. And the article did not disappoint. Martine Rothblatt is every bit as fascinating a person as the snippet above would lead you to believe.

In the 1990s Martine’s youngest child was diagnosed with primary pulmonary hypertension, a rare and fatal disease. Martine took action. She started the PPH Foundation, educated herself about pulmonary conditions, and founded a pharmaceutical company. Her company, United Therapeutics, went public in 1999 and received approval for a PPH drug last year. Martine’s daughter, whose condition inspired her foray into pharma, turns 30 this year and works for United Therapeutics.

Prior to founding United Therapeutics, Martine was already quite accomplished and even considering retirement. She had founded Sirius Radio and took it public in 1994. Prior to Sirius, Martine founded GeoStar, a GPS-based navigation system. Martine began her career as a communication satellite lawyer after earning a combined law and MBA degree from UCLA.

Currently, Martine is expanding United Therapeutics and promoting a new book titled Virtually Human: The Promise—And Peril—of Digital Immortality. Martine considers herself a transhumanist, which according to the article, is “…a particular kind of futurist who believes that technology can liberate humans from the limits of their biology—including infertility, disease, and decay, but also, incredibly, death.” According to Martine, artificial intelligence will be the primary vehicle to enable this new future, where even the dead can be reanimated as digital beings.

The description I’ve provided is a tiny sample of the fascinating details contained within the New York magazine article. Give it a read, or better yet, see Martine Rothblatt speak in person at the 24th annual Partnerships in Clinical Trials conference taking place in Boston on April 22-24, 2015. Martine will keynote the Women’s Clinical Leadership Forum, and I have no doubt she will be a highly engaging and informative speaker.

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