Jayashree Voruganti: From a Successful Biotech and Pharmaceutical Career to a Full-Time Volunteer Activist

Jayashree Voruganti

BURLINGTON, MA– Jayashree Voruganti has worked in Boston’s booming biotech and pharmaceutical industry for over three decades. Now, she is a full-time volunteer and community activist, currently serving as president of the India Association of Greater Boston, known as IAGB, one of the oldest Indian-American organizations in New  England.

She has been associated with the IAGB and Saheli for more than 20 years, Indian Americans for Burlington for more than two years, and with New England Marathi Mandal (NEMM) during early 2000. She feels that Indian-American community needs to step up, speak up, and engage on civil, human, women’s and minority rights.

In her role as a woman, a wife, a mother, an active professional, and a community leader, Voruganti has been a role model for many by delicately balancing and meeting all her obligations. She holds Master’s degrees in Chemical Engineering from Tufts University and in Biology from University of Houston.

Jaya Voruganti

INDIA New England News: Please tell our readers about your work and what you enjoy most about it?

Jayashree Voruganti: I have worked in the bio/pharmaceutical industry for over 30 years, including companies such as Genetics Institute (now Pfizer), Genzyme, Biogen, and Dow Chemical.  My main area of focus was developing and bringing genetically engineered drug products to market. I helped develop therapies for various disorders/disease conditions; for example, coagulants (hemophilia due to VIII and FIX deficiencies), anti-coagulants (tPA, ATIII), growth factors (EPO, G/MCSF, interferons, interleukins), [and] Lipid storage disorders (Cerezyme).

It gives me a sense of accomplishment when a drug candidate moves through R&D, all phases of development, and gets approval for commercial manufacturing and distribution.   This sense of accomplishment is coupled with the reward of knowing that the genetically engineered drugs I worked on provide cures to people who suffer from rare and debilitating diseases and will ultimately extend and/or save their lives.

INE: To which charitable, community and professional group do you belong and why?

JV: While I have supported several charities, and causes over the years, a few stand out. I have been serving and supporting the India Association of Greater Boston (IAGB) since 1995 because I believe IAGB has the potential of bringing our fragmented society together.  As the saying goes “there is power in numbers”, and we need to generate those numbers by uniting the Indian population in Boston so that we can be noticed and courted by our city state and national forces.  While IAGB focuses on top-down approach, I also think a bottoms-up approach is also necessary to work at a grass roots level to bring our community together at town level.  To this end, I was instrumental in founding Indian Americans for Burlington (IAB) and invited Indian families of the Burlington to join the cause.  I am happy to say that IAB has set the foundation and is on its way to pave road for the Indian community in Burlington, be an active participant in the mainstream Burlington community through civic and educational endeavors.

I also strongly believe in women’s empowerment and economic freedom, and have served on the advisory board of Saheli since its inception in 1996.

INE: What are your hobbies and interests?

JV: I love reading, travel, and playing bridge.  You will often find me curled up by the fireplace (or on the porch in the summer!) with a book in hand, mostly likely a suspense novel, or a book that sheds light on science politics, or philosophy.  Currently, I am reading “Who’s In Charge – Free Will and the Science of the Brain” by Michael Gazzaniga.

I love to travel, especially with my family, and I am lucky that since they love to travel as well, I get to share unique and interesting travel experiences with them.  I find it so interesting to travel to a new city or country, and learn about its history, culture, social structure and people.  On a more interesting note, one of my dreams was to visit all seven continents with my family, and I finally accomplished that in 2011!

If not reading or travelling, I love to play bridge.  It is a very relaxing card game for me, but brings a sense of accomplishment when you bid correctly and play competitively to make the contract.

INE: In what way do you feel you have positively influenced or served the local community and your company/organization and professional field?

JV: I believe for any organization to grow, it is necessary to bring in new ideas, new concepts and new people who share the organization’s goals and mission.  There is a danger of an organization becoming an “elite club” and stale, if new ideas and people are not accommodated.

Since 1995, I have recruited several members of the Indian community who believed in [our] mission and potential to join IAGB to help it become a unifying platform for our community.  I did the same with IAB, and invited several Burlington residents to join in the cause and mission of IAB to promote civic, charitable, and educational and community needs in crisis situations and to integrate Indian community with mainstream town activities.  I understand I am very lucky to have friends who share similar views and goals, which helps accomplish things faster.

INE: Your rare talent?

JV: I am a very sincere person and believe in the power of collective thought and action and therefore, I tirelessly follow an idea and work with people around to make it happen. I am not sure if this can be termed a talent, but I am a people’s person.

INE: Your favorite books?

JV: “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier, “Shrimad Bhagwat Geeta” and books on Mahabharata.

INE: Your favorite quotes?

JV: I suppose I could have stayed home, baked cookies, and had tea.” by Hillary Clinton

“If only there could be an invention that bottled up a memory, like scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again.” by Daphne du Maurier, “Rebecca”

“They live in wisdom who see themselves in all and all in them” – Shrimad Bhagwat Geeta

INE: Who inspires you the most?

JV: My mom and my daughters are my inspiration.

INE: The one person you would like to meet and why?

JV: Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton has broken the glass ceiling for women.  I admire her because she is strong, very well educated but not toplofty about it, gracious, and firm in her convictions.

INE: Your core value you try to live by?

JV: Fighting for things that are ethically and morally right. 



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