Female Founder Spotlight: Maria Soloveychik of SyntheX

 In Blog, Women in Business

We at SOSV love to celebrate the accomplishments of founders in our portfolio. It’s especially important to tip our hats to the amazing female founders who help pave the way for others in their industries where men have traditionally been most prominent.

One founder you’ll frequently see around IndieBio is Maria Soloveychik, CEO of SyntheX. Her company is working to “target the undruggable”, using a unique screening platform to discover and design drugs that are specific to a patient’s exact needs. This technology is especially helpful for people suffering from drug-resistant cancer.

Maria obtained her HBSc degree in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at the University of Toronto, where she also received her doctoral training in epigenetics and cancer metabolomics. We asked her a few questions about her journey as a female founder:

Which women have had the biggest influence on your life and/or career?

I was fortunate to be surrounded by very strong women growing up. My mother, grandmothers, sisters, and aunts were, and are, a constant source of inspiration and support. They have collectively instilled in me the values of selflessness, strong work ethic and independence of thought. My family was instrumental in enabling me to pursue my goals and ambitions.

My academic training was also enriched through the many fantastic women I was surrounded by and had the opportunity to learn from and work with.

What positive impact do you want to have through your company, SyntheX?

SyntheX aims to find novel ways of treating diseases, particularly cancers that are difficult to target. We use the power of synthetic biology to build and screen for drugs, by using evolution and cells as our discovery engines. We hope this approach will enable other scientists to develop similar kinds of compounds aimed at problems we don’t have the scope to currently address.

I also hope that the story of SyntheX’s creation from an idea to a company will inspire more scientists to venture out into entrepreneurship and pursue their own hypotheses of novel ways to solve difficult problems.

In your opinion, what is the biggest advantage and the biggest roadblock to being a female founder?

As a founder your main job is to ensure the company’s success, whether it be through making sure tax returns are filed, the science is on track, investors are kept updated, or that rent is paid on time. There’s dozens of issues to address on any given day, and the ability to prioritize and multi-task becomes essential. I find that this is one of the few generalizations that is true – women are typically better at juggling many different tasks at the same time. I find that women are also more comfortable asking for help when they need it. Not being afraid to reach out to the right people is a tremendous benefit to building a company.

There have been some roadblocks, and my fellow female founders and I often discuss these seemingly common issues amongst ourselves, trying to find solutions and provide support. There have been some instances of clear sexism when dealing with potential investors or industry partners. There have been cases of people asking to ‘speak to my boss’ for ‘his’ approval before willing to accept a decision I had made over the phone. Yet, one of the advantages of having your own business is the ability to choose with whom you work. We have been fortunate to surround the company with wonderful mentors, investors, and partners that believe in us and we love working with.

What advice do you have for women entering the business world?

This is the best time in history for women to be in business. Thanks to the efforts of many amazing women (and men), there is now a growing acceptance and a natural place for women in the boardroom. My advice for women is to go for it. There are always doubts when starting on a new venture, and it is easy to talk yourself out of something risky and stay within your comfort zone. Yet, if you are working on something that you genuinely believe in, and something that is worth pursuing, you should not let your doubts stop you. There is a lot of infrastructure available to help new entrepreneurs, and you shouldn’t be shy about using it and being proactive. There is also a strong network of women who will help you along the way.

Follow Maria at @MSo_nightingale and @SyntheX_Labs.

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