"Growing with Great Leadership"
When Milena Kanova joined Palladio Biosciences 15 months ago, the company was scaling up its operations in the planning of the execution of their global pivotal phase III study. The scale and complexity of the study required large-scale global expertise and the attention to a detailed strategy approach, which forms the basis of rare disease research. It also requires a highly functioning team of experts to rise to the challenge. Over her 25 years in the industry, she has been fortunate to work with professionals in almost every country globally, establishing a strong professional network of trusted colleagues. With their help and support from the Centessa and Palladio Leadership Teams, in less than 3 months, they were able to recruit and structure an excellent global team of experts with complementary skills, enthusiasm, and expertise.
Milena sits on the board of a woman-led start-up organization in Africa, working closely with the young management team to provide support and encouragement and pass on all her learning to establish new clinical research countries.
It is revealing how history repeats itself even many years later, how the challenges of clinical research in Africa are like those when Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) was taking its first steps and when the first countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) joined the clinical research map, too. “Palladio values our growth and development and is supporting a strong mentor-mentee program in which I also participate both as a mentor and as a mentee. There is always so much still to be learned by all of us.”
There is a statue in the United Nations city in Vienna of a woman who has stepped out of her frame and outgrown it. “I found that image very empowering over the years. It has helped me find strength in myself to overcome obstacles, limitations and restrains, and outgrow them, and look forward with passion,” she says.
“I have always strived to support my teams to adopt the same approach to work and life and empower them to stretch the frame of their comfort and expand their knowledge, experience, and influence. Once you open another door, and step out of a frame, there is no going back. I think this is what is driving progress in general, too.”
Milena’s career started in Bulgaria, meandering to Turkey, where she worked out of Istanbul, and then to the UK. She started as a CRA in Sofia and has grown together with the clinical research industry in CEE and MENA with increasing responsibilities and expanding remit. “Operationally, I have also worked as a Clinical Lead, Project Manager, and Medical Advisor, Rare and Orphan Diseases strategy unit leader, and Global Therapeutic Area Head for Psychiatry and Neurology with a team of more than 120 Project Leaders and Study Managers,” adds Milena.
“It was only when I joined the biotechnology industry, that I was able to apply all my skills, knowledge, and expertise fully, combining the sharp focus on science and quality with the drive for successful and efficient delivery.”
One thing Milena learned was to value and honor every success. She was extremely proud when the highest recruiting site in a pediatric study was one she worked with as a Clinical Research Associate, when the organization she led in Turkey successfully delivered clinical trials in complex indications, and when the first FDA inspection in Eastern Europe at a site she monitored had no findings, when she was awarded a Presidents Club award at Quintiles, whenever a new product reached patients in need and improved their lives, every time a colleague or a team member got promoted and their success rewarded. “I think being successful is a process and not something that suddenly comes to you. It is a path paved with hard work, dedication, with the help of the many mentors, leaders, and colleagues I had the honor to learn from and work with.”
The steadfast leader believes in a future state of health care that will be centered around the individual and where everyone will have equal access to the most advanced treatment. She believes every success in developing new treatments brings people closer to the future of personalized medicine and well-being maintenance. She is now focused on further developing the clinical operations team at Palladio and expanding their collaboration network with Centessa. “While technology advancements and scientific discoveries in medicine pave the way for a better future, many challenges of our daily lives require nimbleness and flexibility, and strong support from our families, friends, and colleagues to overcome. I am grateful for all of them!” WL
Palladio Biosciences, Inc., is a Centessa company. Our first product, lixivaptan, is in Phase 3 clinical development for the treatment of autosomal polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD). ADPKD causes numerous fluid-filled cysts to grow in both kidneys. It is a life-limiting, chronic and progressive disease. It is the 4th leading cause of kidney failure and carries significant financial and emotional burden, affecting entire families.