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Xconomy Newcomer Award Winner Amy Schulman on Boston Biotech Life

Xconomy Boston — 

Amy Schulman is relatively new not just to Boston, but also to biotech. Before she moved to Boston in 2014 to join Polaris Partners, she was a partner at a major law firm and then worked at Pfizer in New York, where she served as general counsel and also headed up its huge consumer healthcare business.

After parting ways with Pfizer, however, Schulman was looking for a change. She talked with Dennis Ausiello of Massachusetts General Hospital, Pfizer’s lead independent director, who connected her with famed MIT inventor and company creator Bob Langer. Through Langer, she was introduced to Polaris, and discovered the rich Boston startup world.

Soon after arriving in Boston, Schulman became CEO of Polaris-backed Arsia Therapeutics, which was co-founded by Langer and then acquired by Eagle Pharmaceuticals in 2016. While at Arsia, Schulman began talking with Langer about his next idea for a startup, and together with Andrew Bellinger and Gio Traverso, members of Langer’s lab at the time, they founded Lyndra in 2015, with Schulman as CEO.

Lyndra is working on long-acting oral drug formulations that would allow people to take pills weekly or even monthly rather than daily. Earlier this year, Lyndra raised $23 million in a Series A round and formed a partnership with Allergan to develop longer lasting versions of Allergan’s Alzheimer’s treatments so that they can be taken weekly. Schulman also teaches first-year students leadership and corporate accountability at Harvard Business School.

Schulman received the 2017 Xconomy Newcomer Award at our Awards Gala in September. I spoke with Schulman before the gala. Here are edited excerpts of our conversation.

Xconomy: What drew you to biotech?

Amy Schulman: In my role as a business person, I see myself as an essential bridge between brilliant, innovative science and a commercial world that has to value and package ideas in a way that allows them to be brought forth, and in a way that does adequate justice to the ideas and also so that they can have impact on the world. Biotech is a bridge between those two worlds. That’s where I thought I could add value.

X: What’s been the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make in moving to Boston and the startup world?

AS: For me, it’s probably the pace and the dynamism of the startup world. The level of challenges and the level of enthusiasm and energy to tackle those challenges is unprecedented in any environment I’ve ever been in. It’s been energizing for me. I’m not sure I could have handled it 20 years ago.

X: And you also teach at Harvard Business School.

AS: I love teaching. I see teaching as not unconnected from being a CEO at a startup. A lot of what a CEO does is to help other people to realize their vision and help get obstacles out of the way. Our best teachers are helping our students find their way and figure out what’s important to them and give them ways of looking at the world.