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Sheila Mikhail

Co-founder, Asklepios BioPharmaceutical (AskBio)

Mikhail co-founded AskBio in 2001. The company was an IP holding company until 2017, when it was repositioned as an operating company. Mikhail has advanced several programs into the clinic and grown the company to over 800 employees across five countries. She was CEO until March 2023, and now serves as an advisor.

In 2018, Mikhail cofounded Columbus Children’s Foundation (CCF), a philanthropic mission to accelerate equitable access to the most effective gene therapy solutions for children with ultra-rare genetic disorders. More recently, she co-founded Jurata Thin Film, a company dedicated to simplifying the transport and storage of vaccines and biologics, and making therapies accessible to everyone worldwide.

We asked… 

What advice do you have for those new to the cell and gene field?

A quote from William Feather seems fitting: “Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.” 

I have been in the gene therapy field for over twenty years. There have been several cycles of difficult periods where gene therapy was out of vogue and funding dried up, followed by several periods of unbridled optimism. The key is to focus on solving the fundamental problems, including more efficient manufacturing, repeat administration, and durability of therapeutic benefit. Mission-driven organizations and professionals who are focused on bringing life-changing therapies to patients suffering from devastating diseases will be more determined to weather the difficult periods. 

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party? 

I would invite many scientific thought leaders for the purpose of obtaining their insights on the next steps in gene therapy. Rosalind Franklin, who was not recognized as much as Watson and Crick, but was just as deserving; Jude Samulski, my cofounder and the first to clone AAV for therapeutic purposes. Despite working together for 20 years, his endless creativity and scientific innovation continues to make him interesting; Jennifer Doudna, Nobel Prize winner for Cas9 gene editing; and David Liu, who is known for his work in base editing and prime editing.

If you weren’t in the pharma industry, what would you be doing?

I would spend more time on Columbus Children’s Foundation, a foundation that I helped form to develop gene therapies for children suffering from ultra-rare diseases, as well as helping the outlook for foster care children by providing mentorship and scholarship programs, and advocating for more equitable healthcare for women and persons of color.

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