Building and Connecting Life Science Innovation

Stephanie Hsieh photo

By Ethan Liu

Ideas. Innovation. Imagination. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs with deep knowledge of math and the sciences, Stephanie Hsieh (ΦBK, Wellesley College) has embraced these qualities throughout her personal and professional journey. Since childhood, reading encyclopedias with her father and learning about the various human body systems fascinated her endlessly. However, partway through her education at Wellesley College to pursue medical school, Hsieh decided that her passion lies elsewhere. “I loved writing. I loved reading about new advancements in biochemical and medical research and communications… being a doctor just didn’t seem to suit my personality,” Hsieh recounted. Realizing her true strengths lie in storytelling, making science relatable, and amplifying her observations about different industrial and technological trends, she expanded her horizons and pursued a legal degree instead after college.

After earning a J.D. degree from Columbia, Hsieh’s career first started in legal work, ultimately focusing on patent prosecution and litigation. During this time, she developed legal expertise in biotechnology and pharmaceutical intellectual property law and guided numerous business organizations in their development of effective patent and licensing strategies. During her years of legal work, Hsieh still found avenues to connect with her passion, serving as a chief intellectual property counsel for several biotech start-up companies and helping to revamp patent portfolio strategy. In addition, she wrote a number of winning motions that provided pharmaceutical companies with several additional months of product market. Following her inner voice, she decided to go back to school to obtain an MBA at Stanford. Despite enjoying her legal work experience,  Hsieh said that “it still always felt a little reactive to me, not proactive.” “To me, the laws are like the rules of the game,” she explained. 

Wanting to be at the front end of building something, Hsieh entered the business field, and the transition was natural for her. Her legal experience with Fortune 50 companies and ability to communicate ideas with others set her on the right path. Combining her biomedical knowledge with her entrepreneurial leadership, Hsieh founded Meditope Biosciences, a biotech company focused on developing leading-edge cancer therapeutics and exploring safer, more cost-effective immuno-oncology products. When asked about what she was most proud of during her time as CEO, Hsieh stated that building the company from scratch was gratifying as she took academic research and transformed it into an entity dedicated to medical and technological breakthroughs. At the same time, she enjoyed building an amazing team that shared her vision for biotech development. To Hsieh, it is very important “to maintain that culture of camaraderie, transparency, and teamwork, and do it with fun,” she said. Speaking about her ability to keep colleagues focused and on task, Hsieh compared it to rock climbing and how one needs to keep their focus on the bigger milestone, to know where they are going and to get there with the greatest possible efficiently. 

To bolster Meditope’s capacity for research, she raised more than $6.5 million for early-stage financing and almost tripled the company’s valuation in a three-year period. Following many fruitful years of leading Meditope, Hsieh transitioned into a position with its board of directors to guide the successful search for the next CEO. In 2020, Hsieh took on the position of executive director of Biocom California, a trade association dedicated to accelerating the life sciences in California. “My role at Biocom is the culmination of 30 years in the life science industry, as an entrepreneur, board director, executive, intellectual property attorney, and angel investor,” Hsieh said. Through reallocation of resources, interfacing with regional elected officials and government entities, and her formulation of strategies to further expand Biocom’s reach, the life science sector in Los Angeles became active and collaborative. In 2021 and 2022, Hsieh was named one of Los Angeles’ most influential leaders by the Los Angeles Business Journal. “It’s been a ton of fun because it really stretches the way you think about how all these pieces interconnect and how we build that shared vision for what the region could look like,” explained Hsieh. 

Being inducted into Phi Beta Kappa at the same time as her graduation from Wellesley College, Hsieh fondly remembered receiving the news as a special moment in her life and a sign of recognition of her academic accomplishments. She remarks how liberal arts and sciences have been invaluable to her career by sparking intellectual curiosity, as it is fascinating to piece together different subjects and see how they connect with each other. “Just having those foundational skills to dig in and think about what is the real problem and how do we solve it collectively is what it’s all about,” remarked Hsieh. The core values of learning, creativity, and teamwork are what drove her to success in the business world, and she remains committed to the spirit of problem-solving, innovation, and collaboration as the biotech industry continues to expand and reshape our world. 

Ethan Liu is a junior at University of California, Santa Barbara majoring in global studies. He was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa there in June 2022. The University of California, Santa Barbara is home to the Lambda of California chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.