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It's In Her Genes

It's In Her GenesTufts graduate Mara Aspinall has helped leading biotechnology company Genzyme chart a course for success.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [12.03.07] As a top executive at the third-largest biotechnology company in the world, Mara Aspinall (A'83) came to the business with a Harvard MBA but no science background. Now president of Genzyme's genetics division and at the forefront of a booming diagnostics business, Aspinall recently told the Boston Business Journal, "I have the privilege of working with a team that has taught me well."

Aspinall, who majored in international relations at Tufts and earned an MBA from Harvard in 1987, has worked for Genzyme for nearly a decade. She was initially in business development, negotiating partnerships, joint ventures and acquisitions. She took over the genetics division in 2001, learning the science along the way and becoming an evangelist for the benefits of biotechnology.

"On a day-to-day basis the thing I am most proud of is I go out in the field and meet physicians," Aspinall told the Journal. "I bring a lot of passion to what I believe in."

Genzyme's diagnostics business is the company's fourth largest by revenue and income through the second quarter, generating $140 million in sales during the six months ending June 30. The genetics division employs more than 1,500 people worldwide-about 16 percent of Genzyme's international workforce.

Genzyme is a leader in the rising industry of personalized medicine, where targeted genetic diagnoses and customized individual treatment. This field, says the Journal, is one that Aspinall is "fervent" about.

"She [once] said... you have to do what is going to be good for health and the business will take care of itself," Dana-Farber Cancer Institute president Edward Benz told the Journal. "I thought that was fairly telling."

Her dedication is evident through her hands-on approach, as she encourages her colleagues to meet with doctors and hospitals to see how their work at Genzyme is being applied, according to the Journal.

As the life sciences sector has rapidly expanded in Massachusetts, Aspinall is among a group of life sciences executives in the state who have taken on both civic and industry-leadership roles. This past year, she was one of several advisors to Gov. Deval Patrick's transition team about the life sciences industry who helped the governor's administration shape the $1 billion life sciences stimulus bill pending at the State House.

"She's articulate, focused, organized, and an outstanding leader," Paul Guzzi, president and CEO of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, told the Journal. "She's definitely got that missionary zeal about her."

Aspinall's passion extends beyond the company. Aside from volunteering with the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and the American Cancer Society, she is a self-described rabid Red Sox and New York Mets fan, a dark chocolate addict and an avid amateur photographer.

The married mother of three told the Journal she believes in balancing work and play.

"You need to laugh, you need to have fun, and you need to work very hard."

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