Dr. Liang Schweizer, CEO and president of a biotech startup company, sees herself first and foremost as a scientist. “I am a scientist at heart. Ever since I was a little girl, I just loved science.”
Schweizer grew up in China and graduated with a B.S. in biology from the University of Science and Technology of China. Her doctorate in biology is from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and then she did her postdoctoral work at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. In Dr. Schweizer’s word, she followed a “typical scientific track.” After her postdoc, she worked as a researcher and executive at companies like Bristol Myers Squibb and Sanofi.
Today, Schweizer is leading HiFiBiO Therapeutics, a multinational biotech company developing treatments for cancer and autoimmune diseases. The company combines its deep-rooted biological expertise with comprehensive single-cell profiling technologies. This allows the company to rapidly discover and advance a pipeline of antibody drugs. Single-cell profiling can provide important information about mutations only carried by small populations of cells.
“It’s been an exciting journey. We are trying to unlock the curative power of the human immune system to combat diseases,” says Schweizer.
Lately, the team at HiFiBiO Therapeutics has been working on a COVID-19 project, something Schweizer sees as a humanitarian effort. “We’re not going to be looking for profit here; we’re trying to really just help,” says Schweizer. In November 2020, HiFiBiO announced a partnership with Russian pharmaceutical company, Pharmsynthez PJSC. The partnership is looking at HFB30132A, a SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody, to potentially treat COVID-19.
Building confidence through community service and volunteering
In her transition from scientist and executive to founder, Schweizer challenged herself to expand her horizons. “Giving ourselves the opportunity to try new things builds confidence.” She points to volunteering and community service as key strategies for confidence building. Her own community service includes the creation of a foundation (in partnership with her husband), the Schweizer Foundation for Arts and Innovation. She sees similarities between artists and scientists and finds the combination of creativity and innovation inspiring. The foundation sponsors artists and innovative thinkers from around the world for residencies at the Schweizer Lake House in Pennsylvania, allowing them to pursue their passions and relax in a peaceful, rural setting.
Schweizer also believes in the power of mentorship. “I benefited in my earlier career from [having a mentor] and people being willing to give back. Now we are in a much better position to give back and keep that tradition going. That’s how we can help the next generation be successful and have a greater impact.” Recently Schweizer was awarded an Extraordinary Women Advancing Healthcare award by The Commonwealth Institute for her work in healthcare innovation, inspiring others, and for her commitment to fostering diversity.
In this video, Schweizer further discusses confidence, the importance of mentorship and volunteering and her startup’s COVID-19 treatment project.