Although born and raised in Vancouver, Anne Stevens says spending formative years in Mexico from grades 6 to 9 had a lot to do with her decision to go into life sciences.
“It was kind of an eye-opener to the differences in health-care systems in general from one country to the next, and access to different medications and health-care services,” said Stevens, whose parents were in the airline business and lived in Acapulco for several years. “I think, from an early age, I always knew I wanted to be in this field.”
Her rise in the local life sciences sector has been rapid. At the age of 36, she has already helped co-found a new venture capital firm, Northview LifeSciences, which in turn created one of the rising stars of Vancouver’s life sciences sector – Aequus Pharmaceuticals (TSX-V:AQS).
After obtaining a bachelor of science degree in microbiology, she worked as a sales representative for Bayer AG, and then went to Cardiome Pharma Corp. (TSX:COM) while still pursuing a master’s degree in health administration.
After leaving Cardiome, she and a number of other Cardiome executives, including former CEO Doug Janzen, founded Northview LifeSciences, which has either formed or invested in 10 life sciences companies.
Aequus is one of Northview’s portfolio companies. Founded in January 2013, Aequus went public a year and a half ago, has raised $14 million and already has two drugs approved for sale in Canada and five more in the pipeline.
“We became part of the operating management team of that company pretty early on,” said Stevens, who is the company’s chief operating officer.
Aequus specializes in securing licensing for drugs that are approved for use elsewhere but not in Canada, and improving drug delivery systems.
One opportunity Stevens seized on was a problem with epilepsy medication, which patients need to take two or three times a day, increasing the risk of patients missing doses. She negotiated a licence with a U.S. specialty pharmaceutical company to make once-daily epilepsy medications available to patients in Canada.
Aequus was awarded the LifeSciences BC Growth Stage Company of the Year award in 2016.
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