Winning the Race Against Time

Life Sphere aims to shed light on the significance of innovation in life sciences, the people, the challenges and success stories all while educating, inspiring and empowering professionals.

Welcome to the Life Sphere Podcast

Each episode of Life Sphere will feature a conversation with thought leaders across a range of skills and disciplines. The guest line-up for season one includes drug commercialization, scientists, marketing and PR, analytics, technologists, Acumen's own in-house experts and more. Through these conversations, Life Sphere will explore industry trends, must-have tools, careers, new skills, as well as (and most importantly!) demonstrate the impact life sciences has on each of us. Guests will share their unique take on the industry, including career advice, experiences, how to overcome hurdles, and more!

Episode 19

Empowering Precision Medicine through Diversity and Technology


In this exciting episode of the Life Sphere Podcast, Kathy Brunner hosts Sandra Torres, a notable figure working at the crossroads of technology, science, and healthcare. With over 12 years of experience, Sandra shares her journey from academia to the private sector, focusing on empowering Ph.D.'s and postdocs in their transition. The conversation delves into the critical role of diverse perspectives in healthcare innovation, especially in clinical trials and patient care solutions. Sandra highlights the benefits of inclusivity in research and development, from addressing disparities in healthcare access and outcomes to enhancing patient solutions. She emphasizes the importance of involving marginalized communities and a variety of perspectives beyond traditional categories, which leads to breakthrough innovations in healthcare. Additionally, Sandra discusses the challenges and opportunities in data management, particularly in the era of big data and AI, underscoring the need for quality data that represents all populations. The podcast touches on the impact of COVID-19 on telemedicine and decentralized clinical trials, pushing for more agile and inclusive practices in healthcare research and development. Sandra's insights provide a compelling look into how technology and diversity are driving forces behind more effective and equitable healthcare solutions.

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Episode 18

Innovations in Prosthetics: How One Woman's Vision is Empowering Women to Embrace Life Beyond Limb Loss


In this episode of the Life Sphere podcast, we take a look into the world of prosthetics with our esteemed guest, Dr. Sara Peterson. As the CEO and founder of Wise Women Parliament, Dr. Peterson is a true advocate, educator and certified prosthetist-orthotist dedicated to transforming the lives of women living with limb loss or limb difference. During this captivating conversation, Dr. Peterson sheds light on the crucial distinction between limb loss and limb difference, emphasizing the need for understanding and compassion in addressing the unique challenges faced by individuals in these situations. She passionately discusses the importance of providing holistic care, recognizing that true healing encompasses the physical, emotional and psychological aspects of an individual. With her expertise and firsthand experience, Dr. Peterson delves into the remarkable advancements in prosthetic technology that are revolutionizing the field. She highlights the incredible potential of sensor technology and artificial intelligence, which have greatly enhanced the customization and delivery of prosthetic devices. Through the use of 3D printing and data collection, prosthetics can be tailor-made and more affordable. Drawing upon her extensive network of healthcare professionals, Dr. Peterson emphasizes the interdisciplinary approach required to tackle the multifaceted challenges faced by patients. Her organization, Wise Women Parliament offers an uplifting community and provides a safe and supportive space for women experiencing limb loss or limb difference. Through virtual and in-person meetings, Wise Women Parliament connects individuals across different states, fostering a sense of belonging, empowerment, and camaraderie.

Tune in to this inspiring episode as Dr. Sara Peterson enlightens us with her expertise, compassion, and dedication, and discover the transformative impact she and Wise Women Parliament are making in the lives of women navigating the realm of prosthetics and limb difference.

Sara Peterson Life Sphere Guest Website Image
Michelle Johnson Life Sphere Guest Website Image

Episode 17

Revolutionizing Life Science Decision-Making: The Power of Data, Technology, and Digital Transformation


In this episode of the Life Sphere Podcast, host Kathleen Brunner speaks with Michelle Johnson, the CEO of Metrum Research Group who has over 20 years of experience in strategy, operations, marketing and business management. Their conversation delves into leveraging data-driven strategies, embracing technology and digital transformation and staying ahead of technological advancements to drive innovation and remain competitive. They even end with some interesting book recommendation that bridge the gap between industry and entertainment. Michelle highlights Metrum's commitment to science and developing open-source tools that make scientific content freely available to the community. She also emphasizes Metrum's multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving and its ability to adapt and serve customers by taking different perspectives into account. The discussion emphasizes the impact of digital transformation in the Life Sciences industry and the opportunities it presents for Metrum and their customers. The discussion also focuses on the importance of democratizing and standardizing data to enable better decision-making in drug development. Kathy and Michelle further discuss the balance between the pressure to deliver therapies quickly and ensuring accuracy and quality.

Metrum Research Group is a decision informatics company that helps decision-making teams take a quantitative approach to drug development. They hold a unique position at the intersection of science, technology, and data, and they are dedicated to transforming biomedical decision-making to improve health effectively and efficiently for all.


Episode 16

Assembling the Talent Puzzle: Navigating Evolving Areas in Life Sciences to Build Diverse and Successful Organizations


In this episode of the Life Sphere Podcast, host Kathleen Brunner interviews Melissa Singer Weiss, principal at Stevenson Search Partners. Melissa brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the ever-evolving Life Sciences industry. Today she discusses the unique approach of Stevenson Search Partners in building companies and developing strong relationships with clients and candidates. She emphasizes the importance of long-term partnerships and providing valuable advice throughout an individual’s career. Kathleen and Melissa explore how life sciences companies are embracing the convergence of science and technology, including the integration of artificial intelligence and digital innovation. Melissa highlights the challenge of finding experienced talent in these evolving areas and compares matching organizations with the right skills, to fitting together the pieces of a puzzle. The conversation delves into the strategic aspects of talent acquisition at different stages of a company's growth and the criticality of strong leadership, communication skills and a solid reputation in attracting and assessing talent. The conversation turns to the significance of diversity of thought and the inclusion of diverse candidates in driving innovation and expanding market opportunities. Melissa discusses how skill adjacency and open-mindedness can contribute to diverse perspectives and creative thinking. The episode concludes with a focus on incorporating technology, such as artificial intelligence, as part of diverse thinking and the exciting possibilities it brings to the life sciences industry.

Melissa Singer Weiss Life Sphere Guest Website Image
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Episode 15

Cell Therapy and a look at the Economics and Science Needed to Help Patients Win the Race Against Time


In this episode of the Life Sphere podcast, we speak with Elina Lavit VP of Business Development at OncoNano Medicine. Elina brings over 19 years of experience in leadership roles in organizations ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 corporations in various therapeutic areas, including oncology, surgery, cardiology, and neurology. Her background in economics and biology gives her a unique look into medicine that she shares with us on the podcast today. Elina talks about one of the biggest problems in oncology and the work her company is doing to help alleviate it. She shares her career path from medical representative to business development to quality assurance while emphasizing the need to win the race against time. As Elina reminds us, when it comes to oncology, “the clock is ticking and the patient can’t wait.” Tune in to hear about the challenges and opportunities in medicine today and the solutions that are currently accelerating the science that is getting therapies to the patient faster.

Episode 14

A Chemists Explains the Path from Idea to Product and the Importance of Chemical Safety and Sustainability


On this episode of the Life Sphere podcast, we speak with Savanah L. Saldaña-Shumaker, M.S., NMR Chemist for National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences and Co-Founder of two startups, SCS Laboratory Solutions, Inc. and Nazte Beauty, LLC. During her "nine-to-five" job, Savanah works in the Division of Preclinical Innovation’s Analytical Chemistry Core, as a Chemist specializing in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy. Today Savanah shares her career journey from aspiring ballerina to chemist to entrepreneur of not one but two startup businesses. In her discussion with host Kathy Brunner, Savanah articulates the common denominator of two seemingly very different startup spaces by emphasizing the need for chemical safety and sustainability and how that leads to safer skincare products for consumers. Ultimately, Savanah relates her commitment to chemical safety to patient care and points out safer handling of chemicals and sustainability is imperative to improve patient outcomes.

Savanah Shumaker Life Sphere Guest
Marnie Smith Life Sphere Guest (1)

Episode 13

Quality & Regulatory Compliance in Medical Devices: Driven by the Passion to Improve Patient Outcomes with Marnie Smith


On this episode of the Life Sphere podcast, host Kathleen Brunner talks with Marnie Smith, Senior Director of Quality at Network Partners. In today’s conversation, Marnie takes us through her career journey from aspiring doctor to engineer and how that ultimately led her to work in medical device. Kathleen and Marnie discuss the role of quality and how it is driven by the passion to improve patient outcomes. As Marnie delves into the people and processes behind quality her stand out advice is “don’t over complicate it.” Kathleen and Marnie expand on that advice by describing the impact digital transformation is having across the various 4.0’s including quality 4.0. They point out the need to bridge the gap between software engineer and quality engineer and they discuss how the pervasiveness of computer applications and shift to SaaS is affecting validation requirements and requiring greater resources to maintain compliance. Finally, Kathleen and Marnie consider the possible solutions: from partnership opportunities to a move from reactive to forward thinking, all while maintaining GxP best practices and bringing safe products to patients.

Marnie Smith has over 15 years of medical device experience that includes sustaining design, project management, supplier quality, quality management systems, CAPA, audit management, design controls, complaint handling, recalls, and manufacturing impacts on quality in a variety of class II electromechanical devices. Marnie's extensive background provides support and leadership to Network Partners and their clients.

Episode 12

From PR to Pharma: Harnessing the Power of AI & ML to Bring Therapies to Market Faster


On this episode of the Life Sphere podcast, we welcome guest Juliette Vandenbroucque. Juliette is a Senior Director of Business Development at Taimei Technology, a leading digital innovator in clinical research. She has extensive international experience in the life science industry spanning PR, scientific communications, global medical affairs, and clinical research. Juliette has worked with leading pharma companies and biotech start-ups across three IPOs, over 15 product launch strategies, two new manufacturing site inaugurations, and a multitude of other global medical affairs initiatives in various therapeutic areas including oncology, ophthalmology, neurology, and rare diseases. She is passionate about science and technologies transforming biology and healthcare and her goal is to help biopharma companies accelerate and enhance their clinical research.

Juliette Vandenbroucque-Guest

Episode 11

From Discovery to Commercialization: Using Technology to Get Drugs to Patients Faster with Dr. Dawn Bell


On this episode of the Life Sphere podcast, we speak with Dr. Dawn Bell, Global Development Head, Strategic Partners at Novartis. Her career spans buy and sell-side BD&L, portfolio strategy, R&D and commercialization in both private and public companies (NYSE: NVS; NASDAQ: MDCO). She has raised venture capital, led global teams of 100+ people and managed budgets/P&L of more than $50M. Today Dr Bell talk with us about the challenges in getting drugs to market. She explores possible solutions, what we’re getting right and where we still need to make improvements. She talks in depth about the importance of making data acquisition less expensive and stratifying patients more carefully and efficiently in an effort to accelerate getting the right drugs to the right patients. Dr. Bell shares her passion for translating science to real world experience and the necessity of bringing discovery to commercialization to best serve the patient all while keeping in mind the practical side of risk and financial investment.

Episode 10

How a Proactive Approach to Regulatory and Getting It Right the Frst Time Can Improve Patient Outcomes


On this episode of the Life Sphere podcast, we welcome guest Divya Gowdar. Divya is an experienced Quality and Regulatory Professional who has worked across multiple product portfolios in both large and small Medical Devices and Combination Product Organizations. She offers a proven track record of achievement and successful contribution in the quality management system, end-to-end product development lifecycle, risk and process management, quality compliance, and manufacturing operations in compliance with US FDA and other international regulations. Divya's strong belief in making a difference in the quality of patients’ lives inspired her to establish NubGenix Consulting which provides services including design and implementation of Quality Management System (QMS), establishing regulatory, quality and compliance strategies for product launch and streamlining workflows such as Audit and Inspection Management, Post Market Surveillance, and much more.  Divya is passionate to work with her clients in identifying challenges, recommending cost-effective solutions and working towards successful outcome in a timely manner.


Episode 9

Christina Aon, Director General at CERASP

On this episode of the Life Sphere podcast we welcome guest Christina Aon. Christina is pharmaceutical professional with extensive international experience garnered developing strategy, leading and implementing large-scale pharmaceutical projects such as facilitating the successful merger of GSK Vaccines Japan and Daiichi Sankyo. She has over 25 years of international pharmaceutical experience spanning three continents for GSK Pharma, GSK Vaccines and Abbott Laboratories and the Quebec SMEs.  She has held positions in Commercial Sales and Marketing, Supply Chain, GMP Manufacturing and Compliance, Business Excellence (OE Lean SixSigma) and Performance Management and Strategy setting and her last role before becoming the Director General of the CERASP was as Global Development & Learning Director for GSK.  She has proven expertise in the areas of cross-cultural learning and development to meet organizational needs and manage skill gaps via competency models, manufacturing process improvement focused on quality, cost and productivity as well as sales, marketing and logistics experience.  She holds her BSc. From McGill University in Montreal, Canada, her Six Sigma GreenBelt from the University of St-Louis, in Missouri, USA and an International Executive MBA from the Louvain School of Management in Belgium.

Episode 8

The High Cost of Pharmaceutical Development, the Importance of Quality & Innovation and Supporting the Next Generation


Renee Stewart is Co-founder and Chief Science Officer of Levolta Pharmaceuticals. At Levolta, Renee oversees the pre-clinical small molecule program and the patent portfolio. As Co-founder, she also does investor and strategic engagement in the Philadelphia area as the company seeks partners for developing its first-in-class, disease modifying treatment for osteoarthritis.

Renee’s background includes a PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology and work with viruses such as adenovirus, flu, and SV40. With her husband business partner, she has been active in establishing IMC Radiology, a company that does radiology reads for clinical trials. They also cofounded IMC Biotechnology where Renee served as CEO. IMC Biotechnology’s small molecule assets were combined with those of Renascence Pharmaceuticals to form what is now Levolta Pharmaceuticals.

Renee is an active member of Women in Bio and is Chair for the Philadelphia Chapter. She has been a driver behind Women in Bio Philadelphia’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiative, supported the development of the Mentors, Advisors, Peers and Sponsorship Mentor Circle program development, and the Young Women in Bio Science Experiment Initiative, taking fruit fly experiment kits into local schools for a hands on experience.


Episode 7

Biotechnology Development and a Look into Plant-made Biopharmaceuticals with Dr. Lynn Dickey

On this episode of the Life Sphere we welcome guest Lynn Dickey, PhD. Lynn has an extensive background leading and managing research and development activities across functional groups in product and technology development with a focus on plant-made pharmaceuticals. Dr. Dickey was previously the VP of Research and Technology at Biolex Therapeutics. Dr. Dickey oversaw the development of the Lemna plant based core technology including genetic engineering, bioanalytics, product development and design of the aseptic biomanufacturing format. She continued her work with this technology at Synthon Pharmaceuticals as the VP of R&D and General Manager of the US Bioproduction site. Prior to Biolex, Dr. Dickey was a research assistant professor in the Department of Botany at North Carolina State University where she led research programs focused on the molecular biology of gene expression in transgenic plants.

Episode 6

Accelerating Therapies & Maintaining Patient Focus Using Data, Creativity & Clear Communication


Susan Stipa is the Executive Vice President of Public Relations at CG Life. She has a robust and varied career in Life Sciences that has included roles in areas such as engineering, finance, regulatory, manufacturing, healthcare and currently public relations. Susan is a creative at heart with a highly technical background and education. She believes it is important for Life Sciences experts to communicate the technical side of the industry to the public and thinks data is the way to reach more people and keep the focus on the patient.  

In this episode of the LifeSphere podcast, Kathy and Susan discuss the current digital transformation taking place in medicine, how it is accelerating the rate at which we get therapies to patients, and how our collective standards will change as a result. 


Episode 5

The Convergance of Real Estate and Life Sciences: Building the Pathways Between Business Owners and Crucial Real Estate Decisions, while Incorporating the Life Sciences

Ina Sargen is a Senior Vice President at Colliers International. She has over 25 years of commercial real estate experience with a strong corporate client base through her landlord representation, tenant representation, and advisory service assignments, focusing on women-owned/women-led business and the Life Science industry. Ina specializes in advising women business leaders with their real estate decisions and strategies. She is an active member in the Forum of Executive Women, serving on the Programming Committee, a Board Member of the Lower Merion Historical Architectural Review Board and the Vice President for her local Home School Association.
In this episode of the Life Sphere Podcast, Kathy and Ina discuss the intersection of Real Estate and Life Science and the opportunities and challenges it presents.

Episode 4

A Fourth Industrial Revolution: Life Sciences Real Estate, Digital Transformation, and how a straight line is not always the best path with Nancy J Kelley JD, MPP


Nancy J Kelley, JD, is a nationally recognized executive who has driven key strategic initiatives in science and medicine for over 20 years. She has a deep understanding of the healthcare, life science and research fields and has in-depth knowledge of the related legal, business, government, non-profit and academic sectors in New York City and across the country.

Ms. Kelley's prior leadership history includes work in scientific institutions, life science companies and life science real estate development. She is a Founding Member of NYC Builds BIO+. She is a member of the Founding Leadership team of the international scientific project GP-write and the associated Center of Excellence for Engineering Biology, and helped to launch the Biodesign Challenge. Ms. Kelley was the Founding Executive Director of the New York Genome Center and a lead executive in the development of the East River Science Park (now, Alexandria Life Science Center) in Manhattan. She has overseen major development projects for clients such as Harvard's McLean Hospital, NIH, Johns Hopkins, and MIT.

In this episode Kathy and Nancy discuss Life Sciences Real Estate, Digital Transformation, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and how a straight line is not always the best path. 


Episode 3

Building a World Class Biotech Hub with Audrey Greenberg

Audrey Greenberg is the Co-founder, Chief Business Officer and Board Member of The Center for Breakthrough Medicines. Audrey’s area of expertise is in capital structure, business formation, acquisitions, strategic planning and tactical execution. Audrey’s deep industry experience includes biotechnology, real estate, pharma services, and financial services.
Prior to starting The Center for Breakthrough Medicines, Audrey spent several years in investment banking, public accounting and private equity having worked at some of the largest asset managers in the world with AUM exceeding $100 billion. Audrey is passionate about supporting her community and serves on several non-profit boards including the King of Prussia Business District and is currently an Emissary for Select Greater Philadelphia, a division of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce responsible for attracting business to Greater Philadelphia.
Audrey was recently selected by Philadelphia Magazine as one of the top trailblazers in Biotech and was featured on the cover of Main Line Today’s Power Women edition. Audrey has an MBA from The Wharton School and is a registered CPA in Illinois.

In this episode Kathy talks with Audrey about creating a world class Biotech Hub in Cellicon Valley, Startup Tactics and the Future of Medicine.

Episode 2

Talking Quality 4.0 at Interphex with Oxana Pickeral: President & CEO, Sparta Systems


Oxana K. Pickeral, Ph.D., MBA, is an accomplished technology executive with over 25 years of experience in healthcare and the life sciences, spanning from her work on the Human Genome Project to bioinformatics R&D and clinical trials innovation, to advanced analytics and patient engagement technologies. Prior to becoming the President and CEO of Sparta Systems, Dr. Pickeral was the Global Segment Leader for Healthcare and Life Sciences at AWS where she oversaw the AWS portfolio of technology and consulting partners with specialized offerings and innovative technology tools relevant to BioPharma, Genomics, Medical Device, Payers, Providers, and Agriculture, world-wide. Dr. Pickeral holds a Ph.D. in Human Genetics and an MBA in Finance from Johns Hopkins University.

In this episode Kathy caught up with Dr. Oxana K. Pickeral while she was at Interphex to talk about Quality 4.0, Digital Transformation, Connected Life Sciences and improving patient outcomes.

OxanaPickeral-Guest (1)

Episode 1

Bringing Innovation to patients through Launch Excellence with Digital Technology, Innovation, Real World Data a conversation with Hettie Stroebel Founder & CEO


Hettie is a former Merck & Co., Inc executive with 25+ years’ experience in Life Sciences. Her focus is on global strategic marketing and commercialization creating value for patients, providers, and payers. She led seven product launches, all exceeding profitability targets in major global markets. Her impact on running business units ranges from $100 Million to $1Billion per year.

Working as a volunteer with the non-profit organization, Women in Bio, she leads the US East Coast, Women in Bio Founders Forum, and Chair the Programming Committee. The Founders Forum supports the development and acceleration of success of female founders, especially first-time founders (early-stage and seed-stage startups), and their ventures via peer-to-peer interaction, ultimately attempting to shorten learning curves.

Her passion comes from understanding business, leadership, team dynamics, and most importantly how to deliver value.

In this episode Kathy talks with Hettie Stroebel about how companies can shorten the timeline to Commercialization and achieve Launch Excellence with Digital Technology, Innovation, Real World Data and differentiated Target Product Profiles

Who's Next

Stay tuned for details!


Upcoming Events

ISPE Technical Tuesday Webinar

July 18, 2023
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Amplifying Your Digital Validation with Integration

Digital Validation has a proven ability to accelerate production by reducing validation cycle times, but there’s so much more that it’s capable of. Find out how you can drive even greater value with integration, expanding its best-in-class capabilities to more areas of your organization. Acumen Analytics are proud to show you how in this webinar.

Attend to Learn:   

  • The integration capabilities of digital validation and how they enhance GxP compliance
  • How to approach integration
  • Benefits of data integration
  • How customers have reduced cycle times and increased productivity with digital validation
  • Best Practices in integration and validation

Where's Kathy

Don't Miss Life Sphere Host, Kathy Brunner as a Guest On Other Amazing Podcasts

Enabling AI and Digital Transformation in the Life Sciences

Women in Analytics After Hours podcast

You can hear Kathy's episode on Wednesday, April 19th.

WIA After Hours - Ep14 Kathleen Brunner

Listen to Kathy's previous guest appearances

Sparta Systems, a Honeywell Company Podcast   

Series: Shaping the Future of Quality

You can hear Kathy's episode, "What is the Cost of Not Being Digitally Smart" and others, including a special LifeSphere podcast with Sparta Systems' President and CEO, Dr. Oxana Pickeral.