Company: La Jolla Pharmaceuticals
Title: Chief Operating Officer
When it comes to La Jolla Pharmaceuticals, COO Jennifer Carver has nearly seen it all.
After all, Carver, who started at the company almost five years ago, entered as employee No. 7. And since then, La Jolla's employee count has grown to more than 300 at its high point.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” she said of the road that recently led the company to its landmark first FDA approval, a green light for Giapreza. The therapy increases blood pressure in adults with septic or other distributive shock, and its rollout is consuming much of Carver’s time and attention these days.
While La Jolla may be inexperienced in the launch department, though, Carver isn’t: Having started her biopharma career on the clinical development side of the equation, she’s now seen three therapies all the way through development and into commercialization.
Another benefit of getting in on the ground floor at a company, besides getting to watch it grow from startup to a commercial launch? Getting to shape its culture.
“Sort of selfishly, what happens is you get to build a kind of company you’d like to work in. Just being a part of building corporate culture that attracts wonderful, smart, devoted people to come together and work for the benefit of people who are suffering has been just an incredibly rewarding experience,” she said.
For La Jolla, that culture is centered on core values—including compassion, trust, teamwork and humility—that help make sure everyone’s voices are heard, she said.
“I feel like everybody is treated with respect and … has access to leadership,” Carver said, adding that, “being a woman and being here from the beginning, of course it’s been great to be able to be a part of and ensure that women have the same opportunity to advance and to grow along with the company.”
“I think we’ve done a really good job of that,” she said.
When Carver started in the industry with a background in nursing and business, however, those opportunities weren’t the norm. “When I first started, I felt like, ‘Wow, I understand what the term 'old boys club’ means,’” she says. “It was really, truly that way.”
In recent years, though, more and more women have reached senior management roles, she said, and she’s made a point to network outside the company to connect with them. It’s been “highly rewarding to find that there’s a lot of people out there in similar roles to get to know and learn from, and we support each other,” she said.
One way she’s done that is through the organization Women in Bio, for which she serves on a local advisory board.
“I wanted the chance to give back to the organization because it has given a lot to me,” she said—not just in terms of a network of colleagues, but in terms of a boardroom readiness program she participated in, too.
So what can women in the industry do to make sure it keeps heading in the right direction in terms of gender diversity? “Watch out for it,” Carver said. “I think that women who are in leadership positions need to … influence their companies’ policies and they also need to act as mentors to other women in the company.”