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Kelly Slone: Elevating the Life Sciences in Utah
By Hilary Ingoldsby Whitesides
June 9, 2015
After a successful career in Washington D.C., Kelly Slone never expected to find the perfect job back home in Utah. When it started its search, BioUtah never expected find a president and CEO with Slone’s level of expertise. For both sides it seems to be a perfect—if unexpected—match.
After working in Washington D.C. for so long, what drew you to this position?
I grew up in Utah and my whole family is here. When I was in college I was able to get an internship in Washington for three months, and it turned into 32 years. I never ever thought I’d have a career in Washington D.C., but I was very fortunate to have a great run. … When I heard about the BioUtah job I felt like I would be the perfect candidate considering my background. Representing Utah and the life science industry was a really enticing and exciting opportunity for me.
What initially attracted you to working in the life sciences industry?
My father was a sales rep for a pharmaceutical company so I grew up in the medical industry. I always felt passionate about the life sciences. After college I ended up having the opportunity to work for Senator Hatch, who was the chairman of the Senate Labor Committee at the time, and I started to learn about the policy side of things. Two years later, my direct boss went to work for the Department of Health and Human Services and asked me to go work with him, where we were able to do a lot of work with legislation. I was the liaison between that department and the White House. I ended up gaining a lot of background and experience in healthcare policy through those experiences.
How will your job experiences help you in your new role?
[Later in my career] I got a job with the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA). I was the first person hired to deal with life science venture capitalist issues and was able to create a foothold for life science policies and innovation. I worked with entrepreneurs and educated them about what was happening in Washington that affected their companies and would also educate Washington and the FDA about how venture capitalism affects life science innovation. I was able to shape policies that impacted life science innovation and develop partnerships and coalitions that moved public policy along. BioUtah was looking for someone with a life science background as well as someone who could grow the organization nationally and obtain funding. It’s so exciting for me to be able use my experience in government and industry, and to use it all at once to drive value proposition for BioUtah.
What are your main goals for the future of BioUtah?
My real goal is to build BioUtah into an influential global leader, to really make this organization a valuable face in the life science industry. Companies can come to BioUtah to partner with other companies and grow and network that way. I want to bring in programs that help regulate the processes and challenges that life science companies deal with. I want BioUtah to be an influential leader locally and nationally that will improve regulations for life science companies.
I’m also planning on bringing in an advisory board of outside venture capitalists to partner with BioUtah and the local government to identify what the state needs to do to bring in more investments in the early stages of life science companies. I plan to put together a strategic plan and make real goals to pass legislation that will provide incentives to life science companies that want to come to Utah. Everyone knows that Utah has become a hot spot for tech companies, and now it’s time for us to also become a leader in the life science industry.