PRIDE in Life Sciences

Celebrating Pride Month and the LGBTQIA+ Community

BioBuzz is built on community. For Pride Month we reached out to several friends old and new asking them to share their story. Read on to learn about each of these people and their unique LGBTQIA+ experience. We appreciate their time and willingness to contribute.

Julia Anthony, MS
Founder and Chief Executive Officer
SOLUtion Medical

Community can be a powerful accelerant to finding success in life both personally, and professionally. How have you found success professionally by contributing to the LGBTQ community?

A multitude of factors influence success in the life science space – value proposition and product market fit, R&D, regulatory, reimbursement, and distribution are a high-level few. While beginning with the end in mind and executing vision and plan are important, I’ve learned building relationships with people is the crux for success in work and for personal fulfillment, no matter a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation.

However, there is a special camaraderie amongst the LQBTQIA+ community. Our awareness and determination to persevere through difficult experiences lends itself to fostering loyal, reciprocal friendships and cultivates a heightened empathy for the health seekers we work to serve. I wouldn’t be sharing my words here were it not for LucasPye Bio Founder and CEO Tia Lyles-Williams. Tia is a friend, mentor, and colleague who shared SOLUtion’s life-saving work with BioBuzz.

Cultivating relationships within the LGBTQIA+ (feeling empowered and empowering others) is in and of itself a success. These relationships have opened the door to product development, press, and funding successes too.

Can you share a difficult experience that you’ve endured that despite the challenges, contributed to your growth?

“What does your husband/boyfriend do?” This seemingly harmless, rapport-building question comes up eventually in conversation, especially the more time you interact with someone. Most of my meetings are with men, and more than difficult, this question can be uncomfortable. When I answer honestly, will this be our last meeting? Will he not move forward with investing? Are things going to get awkward or even inappropriate when he I tell him I have a girlfriend? These are some of the things I’d quickly think about while preparing my answer. Of all the things to
worry about when pitching and building your business, fear of ostricization or mistreatment due to gender identity or sexual orientation should not be among them.

Being honest with myself and others has helped me grow tremendously both professionally and personally. Honesty can make or break any relationship. Authentic exchanges create a solid foundation of trust and weed out relationships that shouldn’t be. Being forthright has also contributed to my pointed communication which is important when you typically have little time to share information in the fast-paced life science field. Pursuing truth
even if it leads to difficult conversations – getting comfortable with being uncomfortable – is a powerful skill.

What programs/initiatives do you support that you’d like to give a shout out for others reading?

I support PRA Health Sciences (CRO), JLABS (Incubator), and Proud Science Alliance (collective of healthcare and life science sector LGBTQ+ networks).

Ernesto Chanona, Ph.D.
Director of Business Development
CSSi Life Sciences

What does Pride Month mean to you?

Pride Month, for me, is not just a celebration of the gender spectrum and the diverse sexuality of the human race, but a celebration of all kinds of diversity in our community. Moreover, I feel incredibly fortunate and grateful that I am part of an industry that celebrates diversity. It is impossible not to, given the wealth of nationalities, ethnic backgrounds and races that comprise the members of Maryland’s scientific community. The workforce at the National Institutes of Health–the heart of American biomedical research–is approximately 60% foreign-born.

In short, everyone should celebrate Pride because we’re celebrating differences between us and recognizing that we probably have more in common than our demographics may suggest.

As a married gay man, what are you most proud to share this Pride Month both personally and professionally?

I am intrigued and proud of the changes in our social structure that have been accentuated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Once upon a time, there was a bar called Grand Central in Baltimore. This bastion of nightlife for our community–and the occasional tourist–ran for 30 years and closed during the pandemic.

While the place holds many memories for my friends and me, since my 21st birthday, I was surprised at my apathy to the news of its closing. Upon reflection, I rarely visited the place in the last few years (pandemic aside) because I can go wine and dine and dance with my spouse to any establishment in the city without any hesitation.  That’s something that I never take for granted.

What programs/initiatives do you support that you’d like to give a shout out for others reading?

I support the American Red Cross. There are misconceptions that the American Red Cross sets the policy regarding the eligibility of men who have sex with men (MSM) to donate blood. The rules are set by the FDA, not the American Red Cross. The FDA guidance “Revised Recommendations for Reducing the Risk of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Transmission by Blood and Blood Products” states, “Defer for 3 months from the most recent sexual contact, a man who has had sex with another man during the past 3 months.” So, I encourage anyone with the preconception that it’s the Red Cross’ policy to reconsider.

Tia Lyles-Williams, MRSc (She / Her)
Founder & CEO
LucasPye BIO

Community can be a powerful accelerant to finding success in life both personally, and professionally. How have you found success professionally by contributing to the LGBTQ community? 

I’ve found success by being able to be my full self, being able to connect with fellow LGBTQ life science founders for strategic partnerships / collaborations, and being able to provide support to each other as we navigate our individual lives as members of the LGBTQ Community. 

Forbes NEXT 1,000 Honoree and recently featured via Yahoo!

Can you share a difficult experience that you’ve endured that despite the challenges, contributed to your growth?

As a former employee of a “Big Pharma” company, I was told that due to me presenting myself as a “Masculine-Presenting Woman” as well as being an African-American Woman, I was unfit to be promoted to a Sr. Manager role within the Manufacturing Operations department, and that people weren’t ready for someone like me to be seen in that role. 

Working for that employer and undergoing that difficult experience was a blessing in disguise. Although I was hurt and smart enough to seek help from my therapist during the time, I was able to push myself to the next level by finding another job while still pushing forward with my start-up company, LucasPye BIO. It allowed me to get to “know me” better, become stronger, and purposely build relationships with my fellow LGBTQ peers – including becoming more active via social events / networking events with my peers.

To be honest, I purposely always look for someone “like me” to connect with at networking events. This is precisely how I met and built a friendship with Julia Anthony, Founder & CEO of SOLUtion Medical as well as Olivia McPherson, Program Manager for JPOD at UPenn Pennovation. 

What programs/initiatives do you support that you’d like to give a shout out for others reading?

To be honest, I don’t support as many organizations as I would like to due to my schedule. However, I pay close attention to the following organizations and drop in from time to time at their virtual events: