Dr. Linda Summerton, CEO Immodulon.

Dr. Linda Summerton,

CEO Immodulon.
strengthening the immune system to cure pancreatic cancer

My father said “A woman is better than any man.
You go out there and show them what you can do.”

Dr.Linda Summerton

CEO Immodulon

Northern attitudes
I grew up in Sunderland, in the north of England, where it was usual for money to be  saved for the boy’s education, not the girl’s.  It’s the boy, who had the education. He was very special.   He grew up with that confidence.   But my father said:  ” A woman is better than any man.   You go out there and show them what you can do.”

My driving instructor said “What’s all this A level and university stuff, you’re going to get married and have children.”  Just typical of working class north of England.  But because of my father, I thought I could conquer the world.

As a child I was always interested in science. I rebelled against going to be a medical doctor finding  animals more appealing.   But being being asthmatic to cats and horse hair, being a vet was not possible.
Ironically If I hadn’t got into Cambridge to do natural sciences my second choice would’ve been  Imperial College to do Astro physics.   It’s amazing how these forks in life just can send you down completely different paths.

You didn’t think about a career in terms of a profession, you thought about what you liked doing,   what  you enjoyed, what you saw around you in daily life, or on TV.

Girls are different.
I had to stay in and look after the younger ones, while my brother was allowed to go our and play outside with his friends.   “There’s not a meal being prepared yet and there’s a woman in the house,”   Interestingly it was my brother who picked up my mother  on that:  “Linda’s got exams tomorrow and my dad’s sat in the other room reading the paper. Why didn’t you ask him to put the food on.”

My parents were a big influence.   My father was a mathematician in education.   While I would say he was my first coach and mentor up to 25, at one level I wanted to please him, at another level I knew I had to be independent.

My mother’s  influence was more about being a good homemaker.   All she ever wanted to do was have children.  She had four children but I was pride of place.   Her qualities were humanity, dedication, love of children.   She had style and glamour. She was dark, like Audrey Hepburn.

Work and family

I think Germany was very similar to the UK was 20 or 30 years ago.   The children still come home at lunch times, and mother has to be at home, so work is not built around the working mother.

While I was working in Germany, I had an opportunity to move and work in Switzerland.   But  with my father so strong on  education, I felt I must give the  girls a stable background for  their studies.   I took the safe option, I think it was the right choice and  brought them back to England.

It took me into a different  type of work in private equity space.   Interesting and challenging.  I was surprised by coming back from Germany which was  triumph out of adversity.  Going through  it, was difficult, but looking back I would not have missed it for the world.  My whole family were affected, my husband had given up his job.  He just said  “Well, on to the next adventure.”

After 24 years of marriage we make a good team.    It is about the strength of the team,  not a choice between family or work, which may lead to to a more interesting place.

Team work
AstraZeneca  was bringing  through a new cancer drug for desperate cancer patients.   Launching Iressa depitamin was the most meaningful thing.  Iressa targets non-small cell lung cancer. Getting out there, talking  to the doctors who used the drug.  More  importantly talking to the patients, the families who’s lives you’ve touched.

That’s the bit that gives me joy, makes my heart sing,

We, me and my team, brought that drug  through and launched it.  I had the privilege to be the global leader of a  team.   You just feel so humble that you can have brought something through  that had  so much impact on someone’s life.

That’s why I’m wanting to do again, with Immodulon.  This time the drug targets and strengthens the patient’s immune system.  Our drug doesn’t have any side effects It is kind, it’s gentle.

Always in big pharmacies, there’s competition.   In academia there’s competition.   That has never interested me, you get the science right, but how it develops for the patient is, for me, most important.

I want to keep our philanthropic aims.   Not selling it to a large Pharma company or IPO, making a lot of money for investors.   But can we get something valuable through, that’s going to make a difference to people’s lives.

Advice   for young women taking up science
Firstly science is wonderful,
Follow your dream, constantly learn and evolve.
Network out, get as much information as you can, more broadly start within the science.  Also  people who are more loosely connected can have creative ideas.

Believe in yourself.   A lot of women are not that fortunate.
I can’t stress enough how I was told I could be anything I wanted to be.


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