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Philadelphia Entrepreneur Becomes The First Queer Black Woman To Lead A Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing Company

Philadelphia Entrepreneur Becomes The First Queer Black Woman To Lead A Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing Company

We are taking over biotech spaces!

A Philadelphia entrepreneur is making history as the first queer Black woman to lead a biopharmaceutical manufacturing company, Face 2 Face Africa reports.

Tia Lyles-Williams is the owner of LucasPye Bio, Philly’s first Black-owned biotech manufacturing company. Lyles-Williams said she was initially motivated to move into the industry solely because of lack of representation, desiring to help make bio-drugs cheaper for patients. The company focuses on making biotherapeutic drugs that are affordable while also providing jobs to residents in underserved communities. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Black people account for less than 12% of the pharmaceutical or medicine producing sector. This is something Lyles-Williams hopes to change, carving out a niche for her company with LucasPye Bio being one of just seven biotech companies with the capacity to develop and manufacture Gene/Viral-Based Drug Products. So far, she has already raised $50 million for operating costs, $5 million coming from Black Pearl Global Investments and the other $45 million from their partners.

“Our social impact goals are heavily targeted through offering jobs and opportunities to underserved communities. Bringing down the costs of medication for patients and on the other side of that bringing down the cost of startup companies and companies with drug products...We’ve [already] accumulated enough partnerships to allow us to be open right now and to start generating income,” Lyles-Williams said. 

The company was founded in 2018, initially getting a slow start, but eventually garnering the necessary capital to move forward. Since then, Lyles-Williams has had to navigate the pandemic, a growing business infrastructure, delayed investments, and personal woes with 12 members of her family contracting the coronavirus. The pandemic has just motivated her to bring safe, affordable drugs to the market faster. 

During the pandemic, Lyles-Williams has been focused on creating a sales-cycle to recruit customers, her burgeoning collaboration with the Jefferson Institute for Bioprocessing (JIB) and Celltheon, and continuing to focus on her target markets. She hopes that she can continue to follow in the path of Dr. Percy Lavon Julian, the first queer Black woman to venture into biopharmaceutical manufacturing. While it is not an easy feat, Lyles-Williams said she’s up for the challenge. 

“Because of the lack of people that look like me at this level, they typically don’t take me at face value like my peers. [Being a queer Black woman has] been working in our favor and against our favor in some ways…[but] I’m excited about the opportunity to...take it to the next level,” said Lyles-Williams.

To learn more about the work of LucasPye Bio, click here

Your work is needed now more than ever! Congratulations, Tia!

Photo Courtesy of Phillymag