Meena Subramanyam: A Scientist, an Executive and an Accomplished Bharatanatyam Artist and Teacher

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CAMBRIDGE, MA–Meena Subramanyam is Vice President and Global Program Leader in the gastroenterology therapeutic area unit at Cambridge, MA-based Takeda Pharmaceuticals where she is responsible for developing strategies for global development of therapeutic assets in functional gastric motility indications.

Prior to joining Takeda, Ms. Subramanyam spent 19 years at Biogen in Cambridge. As Vice President and Head of the Translational Sciences and Technology group she held broad responsibilities for developing and implementing biomarker, bioanalytical and diagnostic strategies for products in clinical development for neurodegenerative and autoimmune disorders and contributed to several successful BLA and NDA filings.

She is a board member of WEST, a learning community to empower and advance Women leaders in science and technology, and a 2019 recipient of the “Luminary Award” for leadership and mentorship from the Healthcare Business Women’s Association. She holds a Ph.D. in Microbiology from Miami University in Ohio.

Ms. Subramanyam is also a highly accomplished Bharatanatyam artist and guru. She was trained in the classical Kalakshetra style of Bharatanätyam by Adyar K Lakshman, in Abhinaya by Smt. Kalanidhi Narayanan, and in Mohini Attam by Sri. Trichur P. Ramanathan.

She is also proficient in Carnatic music, and has had the honor of representing India at the “Sacred Festival of Indian Music and Dance” held in Austria and at the “Festival of India” held in the United States. She has been teaching Bharatanätyam in the United States since 1986 and established her dance school “Natya Vidyalaya” in 1990. She trains both beginner and advanced students and has choreographed and staged several dance productions, including “Arupadai” for the Trinetra festival in Boston.

Here is a Q/A with Ms. Subramanyam:

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

Meena Subramanyam: As a Global Program Leader (GPL) in the Gastroenterology therapeutic area unit at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, I manage the clinical development of therapeutic assets in functional motility disorders. In this leadership role, I provide strategic, fiscal, process, and operational management guidance to my teams to advance pipeline projects from early clinical development to commercialization.

I also work closely with the leadership team to set the vision and develop specific objectives for the disease area to help prioritize the company’s product portfolio. What I relish most about the role is the creativity as well as the multi-faceted challenges it offers to develop strategies and to translate them to practice. I enjoy the versatility, particularly the opportunity to interact with both patients and caregivers, to understand the issues and challenges they face living with diseases and develop solutions to address those issues with scientific and clinical experts.

INE: To what charitable, community and professional groups do you belong and why?

MS: I am a member of scientific organizations like the American Society of Gastroenterology, American Academy of Neurology, American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, among others, that are based on professional and scientific interests.

From a community perspective, I am a member of organizations whose mission and vision inspire me including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, WESTorg (Women in the Enterprise of Science and Technology), an organization focused in the development of early and mid-career stage women professionals, and MITHAS, MIT’s association in support of South Asian arts.

I also volunteer my time and contribute to a variety of organizations with the mission of creating and providing access to education, food, and personal hygiene and preventative care, such as Doctors Without Borders, the American India Foundation, Ekal Vidyalaya, Akshaya Patra, AIM for SEVA, Earth Enable, and Rosie’s Place, amongst others.

INE: What are your hobbies and interests?

MS: My hobbies include classical Indian dance and music, learning about different cultures through travel, cooking, gardening, and reading.

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

MS: I strive to make a positive impact on the community and society using my training both as a Bharatanatyam and Mohini Attam artist and teacher, and as a scientist and executive in a biopharmaceutical company.

As a teacher, I have instilled not only an appreciation for Classical Dance and Hindu philosophy in my students, but have also helped them learn and appreciate the rigor, discipline, focus, and hard work needed to succeed as a performing artist.

As an executive, I am privileged to work in the biopharmaceutical industry focusing on developing therapies that make a difference in the lives of patients and caregivers. In addition, I also mentor, support, and coach individuals about careers in science through organizations like the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists and as a board member of WEST, a local learning organization focused on empowerment of early and mid-career stage women. I was recently bestowed the “Luminary award” by the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association, which is given to professionals with more than 20 years of industry experience and who serve as a role model for transformational leadership in their company. I am also active in helping local and international charities including Ekal Vidyalaya, American India Foundation, Akshaya Patra, and AIM for Seva amongst others, by providing financial support and strategic support to develop programs to provide access to education, food, and healthcare.

INE: What is the most pressing issue that you believe women are facing today?

MS: Equity in access to healthcare resources and outcomes, economic benefits and opportunities, and societal participation and status continue to be e challenges for millions of girls and women across the globe.

INE: What is your rare talent that people don’t know about?

MS: Creating interesting and delicious Indian fusion meals!

INE: What are your favorite books?

MS: It is hard to name just a few, but some of the books that have left lasting impressions on me include Loonshots by Safi Bahcall, Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee, and Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.

INE: What are your favorite quotes that motivate you or make you smile?

MS: There are several quotations that motivate me. I will cite the two by Mahatma Gandhi that have shaped my thinking and approach to life: “The future depends on what we do in the present” and “Our greatest ability as humans is not to change the World, but to change ourselves”.  Both of these quotations inspire me to challenge myself and do my best daily.

INE: Who inspires you the most?

MS: It is hard to select a single individual as there are many who continue to inspire me to be better and try harder. My family, whose confidence and enthusiastic support that I have come to rely upon, have been motivational and instrumental in my success; the other group of individuals whom I admire most, and get inspired by, are those who work selflessly for freedom, justice, and for the betterment of their communities.

INE: Who is the one person you would like to meet and why?

MS: Marie Curie, the physicist and chemist, who was the first woman in Europe to earn a doctorate in physics and who received Nobel prizes in physics and Chemistry. Her professional story and experiences have inspired me to become a scientist, and I live by her saying that nothing in life is to be feared, only to be understood.

INE: What are your core values that you try to live by?

MS: Live every day to the fullest and have no regrets. My other core value is to maintain a good sense of humor and to take all of my successes and failures in stride.

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