​Women Leading World-Class Health Innovation in Melbourne


  • 11 May 2018

Three outstanding female leaders have been presented with the 2018 BioMelbourne Network Women in Leadership Awards, celebrating and recognising women at the different stage of their careers who have made outstanding contributions to advancing the biotechnology, medical technology and pharmaceutical sector.

A diverse and gender-balanced workforce has shown to improve complex decision making, provide access to a larger talent pool and promote an inclusive environment for innovation.

2018 has seen the highest rate of female appointments to ASX 200 boards since the Australian Institute of Company Directors began tracking gender diversity statistics, a recent report reveals.

Now that business is embracing the performance-based argument, successful women in and those aspiring towards leadership roles need recognition to drive the pipeline of talent.

The BioMelbourne Network Women in Leadership Awards were launched in 2015 to recognise and champion women, at the different stage of their careers, who have made outstanding contributions to advancing the biotechnology, medical technology and pharmaceutical sector, and inspire more women to pursue leadership roles.

The 2018 Women in Leadership Awards were presented by Vicki Ward MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Employment.at a ceremony hosted by the State Government of Victoria on Friday 11th May.

“It is an honour to celebrate the achievements of three outstanding leaders as recipients of the 2018 BioMelbourne Network Women in Leadership Awards. They have each demonstrated clarity in their passion, purpose and personal commitment to advancing health innovation and making a difference in patient’s lives” – BioMelbourne Network CEO Dr Krystal Evans

Women in Leadership Award – Kathy Connell, Senior Director New Ventures, Australia and New Zealand, Johnson & Johnson Innovation

Kathy Connell combines her clinical background, commercial acumen and health focus in the pharmaceutical industry, in identifying disruptive translational science with the potential to help treat patients globally. As Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s Senior Director of New Ventures, Kathy has personally overseen 50 collaborations with Australian researchers, biotechs, entrepreneurs and governments attracting many millions of investment dollars to Australia.

An inspiring leader and natural networker, Kathy has worked tirelessly to promote global business development for the Australian life-sciences sector. Her efforts have culminated in many successful private-public partnerships, including the launch of the Johnson and Johnson Innovation Partnering office in Melbourne in 2018.

Kathy’s energy, ethics, and commitment to innovation is extraordinary. She is a passionate advocate for Diversity & Inclusion, and is generous in her mentoring, sponsoring and advising women in STEM. She has forged a global pathway for Australia’s scientific innovators to contribute to health solutions for patients, and is an outstanding champion for the local biotechnology industry.

Most Valuable Women in Leadership Award – Dr Amanda Caples, Victoria’s Lead Scientist

Throughout her career Amanda Caples has held leadership positions that have guided and contributed to the development of Victoria as the biotechnology powerhouse of Australia.

With a strong track record pharmaceutical product development in the private sector, Amanda joined the Victorian public service in 2002 when biotechnology was still an emerging industry with the potential to add significant economic value to Victoria. She was the Inaugural Director of Biotechnology and led a change agenda that delivered a more than 3-fold growth in Victoria’s biotechnology sector. Her skills in negotiation and building strategic partnerships has delivered significant research infrastructure and developments, including the Australian Synchrotron and the Melbourne Brain Centre.

In her current role as Lead Scientist, Amanda provides strategic advice to government on science-based issues, support public and private sector collaboration and is an inspirational role model in promoting the importance of STEM skills in education.

Amanda is a consummate professional and ambassador for the biotechnology sector and for Melbourne. Despite her busy workload, she is accessible and makes herself available at every opportunity to support the industry. She has built her career thoughtfully and strategically and her commitment to supporting the industry in Victoria is inspiring, well beyond the expectations of her job title.

Emerging Women in Leadership Award – Grace Lethlean, Director, Programs, ANDHealth

Grace Lethlean is the Director of Programs at MTPConnect Project Fund Program funded ANDHealth; supporting evidence-based digital health technologies to scale to market. She has a track record in project management, clinical validation and commercialisation in the healthcare innovation sector, and is also the co-inventor of a now ASX listed digital health technology.

Although still early in her career, Grace has consistently sought out opportunities to contribute to the industry. She generously gives her time to mentoring young product developers, startups companies and entrepreneurial university graduates, as well as requests from the community to talk about the value and importance of innovation in healthcare.

Grace’s passion for the industry is palpable to anyone who has met her. She is an emerging leader who has wholeheartedly dedicated her professional and personal time to furthering the biotechnology industry.