OBIO® Celebrates the Advancement of Women in Health Science with WiHI Seed Program and Leadership Awards

This press release was originally published by Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization on January 4, 2024. Read the original post here.

The Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization (OBIO®) is proud to announce significant milestones for its Women in Health Initiative (WiHI). Launched in July 2022 with support from the Government of Canada, through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), the OBIO® WiHI aims to bridge the gender disparity in the health science industry, particularly in senior management roles and leadership positions. The program offers comprehensive training, support and networking opportunities, empowering women with the skills and knowledge required to excel in leadership positions.

“Investing in the Women in Health Initiative (WiHI) is a crucial step in providing necessary supports and training so women can enter and flourish in the health and life sciences sector,” said the Honourable Filomena Tassi, Minister responsible for FedDev Ontario. “Southern Ontario is home to an abundance of healthcare-focused businesses—many more of which are women-led thanks to the committed efforts of WiHI. Our government is pleased to support the WiHI program as it works to increase the representation of women in this exciting field.”

In its first year, WiHI has made remarkable strides, supporting more than 325 women in the industry through experiential learning and financial support. This year, 11 women-led companies have been selected for the WiHI Seed Program, a key component of the initiative, which addresses the significant barriers that women-led companies face in accessing financing and support, especially in the health science sector where venture capital investment is at a historic low. The participating companies will benefit from this comprehensive six-month program and have access to expert networks, essential industry resources and skills, non-dilutive funding of up to $20,000 and potential equity investment.

“By providing a combination of early-stage capital and advisory support to women-led companies, the program addresses critical barriers faced by women entrepreneurs in the life science and health technology sectors,” said Dr. Maura Campbell, President & CEO of OBIO®. “The WiHI Seed Program is a critical step towards creating a more equitable, diverse and inclusive health science industry, empowering women entrepreneurs to thrive and be successful leaders.”

The selected companies for the WiHI Seed Program 2023 are A.I. VALI, Atorvia, Cove Neurosciences, HDAX Therapeutics, ImaginAble Solutions, mDETECT, MoxyPatch, Noa Therapeutics, Paradox Immunotherapeutics, Tenomix, and Vessl Prosthetics. These companies will receive comprehensive support, including non-dilutive funding, tailored advisory and coaching assistance, and opportunities to pitch for equity seed investment.

Other exciting WiHI highlights

We are delighted to welcome Monika Yazdanian (CEO and Co-founder of ToeFX Inc.) and Mai Elfarnawany (VP Engineering at Flosonics Medical) as recipients of the Women in Health Initiative Business Leadership Program, joining our previous eight awardees. The program celebrates women that are exemplary leaders, role models and mentors to other women in the industry. The awardees (who each receive a $50K wage subsidy) will participate in OBIO’s networking events and contribute as mentor leaders to a women’s professional development community to support workforce development in a sector where women are underrepresented.

“As a recipient of the WiHI Seed and Women in Health Initiative Business Leadership programs, I am deeply grateful for the opportunities and support OBIO® has provided to us. It is encouraging to see a focused effort to challenge systemic biases and create a level-playing field for women entrepreneurs,” said Natalie Galant, CEO of Paradox Immunotherapeutics. “The WiHI Seed Program symbolizes a transformative shift, empowering women entrepreneurs to excel and innovate. It’s about creating a more inclusive future in health science, and I’m proud to be part of this change.”

We are also excited to share that OBIO® WiHI has received the first ever honourable mention ACE (Advancement, Commitment, Engagement) award from the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (known as HBA), a global not-for-profit organization dedicated to furthering the advancement and impact of women in the business of healthcare. Represented in countries across the globe, the HBA serves a community of more than 75,000 individuals and 180 corporate partners. 

The ACE award recognizes results-oriented initiatives fostered by organizations committed to ensuring that gender equity and leadership opportunities for women are part of their organizational DNA. A panel of healthcare leaders selects recipients for their excellence in advancing their female talent and removing the systemic barriers preventing timely progress to parity. Award criteria include measurable results, business performance, stewardship, execution, and sustainability. Read more.

Furthermore, WiHI was nominated for the Women Leaders in Pharma Awards for The Women Support Network award. This award recognizes companies that have supported the women’s network through networking, coaching, and mentoring.

About OBIO®

Founded in 2009, OBIO® is a not-for-profit membership-based innovation organization engaged in strategy, programming, policy development and advocacy to further the commercialization of human health technologies that position Canada as a leader in the international marketplace. OBIO® advances this goal through collaborative partnerships with industry, the investment community, academia, the health care system and government. For more information, please visit obio.ca and follow OBIO® on LinkedIn and Twitter.

About FedDev Ontario
For 14 years, the Government of Canada, through FedDev Ontario, has worked to advance and diversify the southern Ontario economy through funding opportunities and business services that support innovation, growth and job creation in Canada’s most populous region. The Agency has delivered impressive results, which can be seen in southern Ontario businesses that are creating innovative technologies, improving productivity, growing revenues, creating jobs, and in the economic advancement of communities across the region. Learn more about the impacts the Agency is having in southern Ontario by exploring our pivotal projects, our Southern Ontario Spotlight, and FedDev Ontario’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Media Contacts:

Doriane Rey
Manager, Marketing & Events
Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization (OBIO®)
[email protected]

Edward Hutchinson
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario
[email protected]

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