In an industry with few female leaders and even fewer leaders who are women of color, Puerto Rican entrepreneur Mayra Guzman-Kaslow is really breaking barriers.
Guzman-Kaslow is a scientist and chemical engineer who serves as president and CEO of the Puerto Rico-based and women-led pharmaceutical company GK Pharmaceuticals.
And Guzman-Kaslow is not leading this charge on her own. She started GK Pharmaceuticals with her two daughters and her childhood best friend, another engineer. This company is groundbreaking in many ways, most notably because it is female-led and led by all Puerto Rican women. That’s a huge milestone in the pharmaceutical industry, especially when considering that female leaders and Latina leaders are hard to come by.
According to Pharmacy Times, while women make up most people in the pharmacy profession — more than 65% of actively practicing pharmacists are women — there are very few, if any, female leaders in the industry.
In fact, “0% of retail chain pharmacy CEOs are women, and only 36% of large national pharmacy and drug associations have women CEOs,” according to the “Women Leading Big Change” presentation at the 2020 American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Annual Meeting.
Mayra Guzman-Kaslow and her team of fellow Latina leaders are trying to change all that.
“As four women, born, raised, and educated in Puerto Rico, we had to overcome many obstacles, so we want to be pioneers for a home-grown Puerto Rican pharma industry,” Guzman-Kaslow told Pharma Boardroom in 2019. “We want to open doors and help the Puerto Rican community.”
In addition to focusing on research capabilities to address relevant health issues on the island, GK Pharmaceuticals is also hoping to give positive exposure to Puerto Rico’s many capabilities. This is impressive and important, especially considering they are the first biopharmaceutical company owned by minority women.
“We are the first and only pharmaceutical and biotechnology company in Puerto Rico to have the technology and capacity to manufacture biologics, biosimilars, drug substances, and solid drug products within the same facility. Moreover, we are the only CMO in Puerto Rico with the commercial capabilities, scale, and capacity for sterile injectable and ophthalmologic dosage forms, which will have approvals from the DEA and FDA,” Guzman-Kaslow explained.
And there’s never been such an important time for forward-thinking in this industry and beyond.
In fact, GK Pharmaceuticals has been leading the charge in Puerto Rico since the first case of Covid-19 was reported in Wuhan, China, back in December 2019.
The company began watching and tracking the virus. It soon tasked the organization’s senior scientists with analyzing the virus to develop a molecular Covid-19 test just to be sure that they were ready to hit the ground running in Puerto Rico once the virus spread to the island.
In July 2020, GK Pharmaceuticals presented their test to the local government and eventually began manufacturing the FDA-approved test on the island.
Guzman-Kaslow’s leadership is a monumental accomplishment and shining example not only in Puerto Rico but for the drug industry on a national and global scale.
“There’s a great opportunity for women in science, and we need more women scientists, chemists, biologists, and engineers. We are just as capable as men. I want to be a mentor for those young women,” Guzman-Kaslow told Forbes.com.