Cell Therapy
Gene Therapy
Skills, Talent & Development

8 Practical Ways to Foster Diversity and Inclusion in Cell and Gene Therapy

1 March 2021

At our first edition of advanced therapies connect, a group of cell therapy professionals gathered for an honest conversation about diversity. We asked ourselves what we see is lacking across the sector, and what practical actions we can take to make our industry more inclusive.

The discussion was chaired by Michael Adeniya, Portfolio Director of Phacilitate, and here’s what we discovered:

  1. Make inclusion, equity and diversity a common language in your organisation. Inclusion is a skill that organisations and individuals can learn. By applying the four stages of learning, leaders can start plotting where their organisation is. The aim is to become unconsciously competent, where performing the skills and talking comfortably about D&I is automatic.
  2. By frequently having conversations about D&I, your organisation can move through the stages more quickly. On LinkedIn, you can often see the CEOs of Kite Pharma, Spark Therapeutics and other high profile biotechs speak openly about their company’s diverse beliefs. These external communications, however, must start with prioritising the value of equality and regularly integrating it into internal dialogue. As organisations progress through the stages of learning, becoming collectively aware of the systemic inequalities that exist is a key step towards an inclusive culture.
  3. Recruit outside of your comfort zone. In most cases, the organisations that need to make a change lack diversity. A UK based recruiter raised the point that leaders typically recruit candidates from within their inner circles and a narrow pool of colleges; this needs to change. A new wave of universities in the UK with a science focus are emerging, and the rise of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the United States are widening the pool of potential talent. It’s not uncommon for managers to ask for a specific number of women when building a pool for interviewing, asking for a pool of non-white talent is also acceptable.
  4. Learn about the biases common amongst us that show up when recruiting. There are three types of bias that commonly show up in the workplace. Affinity bias is based on a sense of personal connection to the other person. Confirmation bias confirms a pre-existing perception, stereotype or image. Systemic bias is embedded into processes and systems creating unintended outcomes. By being aware of these and your own preferences/biases, you can take a step in the right direction to create equity when recruiting.
  5. Widen the criteria for clinical trial enrolment. Prioritisation for early stage biotech is often based on speed to approval and securing funding. Recruiting a diverse patient population is often a consideration in late stage development. By widening the eligibility criteria earlier in the development process, we can better predict outcomes and develop medicines that are effective in minority groups too.
  6. Pass the opportunity to a colleague when invited to speak. As event organisers, Phacilitate are committed to increasing the diversity of our conference panels. However, the typical speaker is white and male (which is a whole other article!). As such, we’re now encouraging the ‘usual suspects’ to suggest an alternative colleague from an underrepresented background to speak instead. #ShareTheMicNow is a social campaign which can also be translated to conferences.
  7. Register for GROW RegenMed (GeneRating Diversity & Opportunity Within Regenerative Medicine) Internship Program. This summer, the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine launched GROW RegenMed to provide crucial, early-career paid opportunities in the regenerative medicine sector. This has initially been offered to Black students with a view to broaden this out to minority populations in the future. To find out more, click here.
  8. Access the BIO Right Mix Matters resources. BIO’s Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit was launched this summer and has a wide range of free to access tools to help biotech companies get started on their D&I journey, including a dashboard to capture your company’s diversity and inclusion stats. In a recent interview, Elliot Francis, Diversity and Inclusion Director of BIO said, “We want to make sure that the biotech industry not only supports all populations especially those that have been historically and systemically disenfranchised but we also want to reflect the population that we serve.” To find out more, click here.