Barbara Handelin, PhD

Some people are naturally “closers”; others are “openers”. Barbara is the latter. For example, originally she was to become an actor, but majored in genetics to leave the option of applying to medical school. When a mentor advised against the doctor idea because “you will be bored to tears by ‘practicing’ instead of thinking”, she went to medical school to get her PhD. Thinking turned out to be less compelling than applying science, revealed first during her thesis interview with Audacity partner, David Housman, as they contemplated how much one could improve thoroughbred horse breeding with some simple gene studies. Subsequent decades of seeing opportunities for potential promising medicines shut down because they couldn’t meet financial objectives, revealed a perfect challenge for an opener. Audacity was born. We encourage Barbara to stick to opening minds “out there”, while some of us “closers” get the business of making medicines at Audacity accomplished. Barbara’s BA, Genetics (UC Berkeley, School of Forestry) and PhD, Medical Genetics (Oregon Health Sciences University, with “remote” thesis work in aforementioned Housman lab at MIT), provided the good fortune to help establish some early/first applications. These included a genetic testing lab (Integrated Genetics), gene therapy company (Genovo), biological modeling (Kenna Technologies), rare disease drug development nonprofit (BioPontis Alliance for Rare Diseases) and to help worry about the ethics in genetic medicine along the way on various committees/commissions/nonprofits.

Describe the Impact of a Project you’re focused on.

As a co founder of Audacity R4 Medicines Fund, and as a veteran of the biotechnology and genetics revolution, I have been fortunate to have contributed to high scientific innovation fields and had a hand on several ‘firsts’ in medicine. However, I have also watched many great potential products be dropped or buried for financial returns reasons and watched aghast as today’s drug prices soar beyond the reach of many patients in desperate need. Thus, an urgent need to now innovate on the financing and business model that has driven these unintended consequences is the force behind Audacity.

What results do you hope for when the impact is amplified? Our Promise and Purpose: High medical impact treatments that are sustainably priced to not break the bank of our healthcare economy For the many, many conditions that still lack an effective treatment This is a realistic and practical purpose, not a dream.

What do you have to offer as a connector? What can you give as expertise to others?

My serial entrepreneur career leans well toward inspiration and support of the 'why not' drive - taking the different road is where I love to be and I think I am a good companion to find doors to open. I've been around medicines R&D, the innovators' life, the ethics of genetics and medical practice from grass roots to Federal Commissions..... I love to tell a good story and help others to connect to an audience. Would love to share more but tire of talking about myself.
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