Meet Norma Biln, RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Innovation Finalist
Norma Biln is the CEO and co-founder of Augurex, a commercial-stage, biotechnology company that aims to transform health management through biologically-informed solutions. She is a leading figure in the biotechnology sector recognized as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner, and BC’s Most Influential Women 2018: STEM Stars. Throughout her 30 years in the life sciences industry, she has worked alongside, built, and successfully led agile corporate teams. Augurex’s flagship 14-3-3η blood test is becoming the standard of care for the clinical management of people with autoimmune diseases that affect the joints. After completing her Bachelor of Science in Physiology at McGill University, Norma worked in commercial capacities with Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Amgen and Abbott Laboratories. Norma has served as a director on the board of many biotechnology organizations. With a Master of Business Administration, Norma is pursuing her Doctorate at the University of British Columbia, School of Population and Public Health in the Faculty of Medicine. She is currently on the Board of Directors of BIOTECanada, the national industry association, and New Ventures BC, the province’s premiere tech competition and early-stage accelerator.
I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur when… I joined a biotech company called Aspreva and saw what Richard Glickman, Noel Hall, and Michael Hayden had built from an idea. They probably don’t know it, but they were so inspirational in me making the move from being an employee to becoming a biotech entrepreneur with my Augurex co-founder, Anthony Marotta.
Entrepreneurship is made for me because… as my career took shape in its early years, I realized that to make a big impact, I would have to innovate outside the big corporate walls that I had the privilege to be professionally developed and raised in. I took my training, and fiscal and corporate discipline skills and applied them to start a company that has impacted the lives of over a million people living with arthritis and has changed clinical practice for thousands of general practitioners and rheumatologists.
The impact I hope to make through my work is… to give people control over how they manage their health, from disease prevention through to recovery and remission maintenance. At Augurex, our next step towards this will be to help people with joint pain access digitally integrated information about biological processes going on in their bodies, using simple blood tests wherever they seek care. This information, coupled with their symptoms, will allow individuals to partner with their healthcare providers to achieve their best-personalized outcomes.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned on my entrepreneurial journey is… to get started before you are completely ready — momentum breeds momentum. Getting feedback while you get “ready” creates better work products and builds experience and relationships that you can draw on along the way. Don’t worry about having only one chance to make a great first impression; being bold while humble and open to incorporating feedback is what makes the most powerful, long-lasting impression.
My proudest accomplishment is… raising my two children. Not only because I think that they are amazing people (I’m biased), but because raising them has humbled me. I’m still learning how to be more flexible, accepting, and understanding of how individuals each have such a different lived experience. Mine is only one viewpoint, and I have so much more to learn.
The biggest risk I took that paid off was… marrying my husband! I was 25 years old when I met him. While he “didn’t check all the boxes” of what I thought were the most important criteria, 28 years later, he’s still the one.
My biggest setback has been… despite having faced many challenges, I don’t consider any one of them a setback. They were each formative, propelled me forward, created opportunities, and had a silver lining. As I say that, I’ve been blessed without major crises in my life so far, and I count my blessings.
I overcame it by… always looking for the open door when one door closes.
The best advice I’ve received as an entrepreneur was… keep things simple and streamlined, from your contracts to your capitalization and organizational structure — no bells and whistles. The business of biotechnology is complicated enough and success in this space is very difficult to achieve, so keep everything else as simple as possible.
I surprise people when I tell them… that I slept in a crib until the age of 6, sharing a bachelor suite as an immigrant family of 7. They took the side rails off at some point though!
If I had an extra hour in the day, I would use it to… cook a creative, unrushed meal. I love to cook, but I do it pragmatically to get a healthy meal on the table to feed the family.
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… that what I love to do most at home on a weekday evening, is analyze data while I sip on a nice glass of red wine and eat mixed nuts.
The future excites me because… I love strategizing for a positive outcome, imagining the possibilities, and planning to achieve audacious goals. I’m very optimistic about what the future holds. I see so many advancements underway that I want to be a part of, to make a positive difference in people’s lives.