In the final part of our series, Proclinical Executive Senior Partner, Claire Perry, speaks with another inspirational woman in business, Megan Bailey, CEO of Personal Genome Diagnostics (PGDx). Megan shares her insights on company culture, how she created an environment for success, and the crucial role that played in PGDx's recent acquisition by Labcorp.
Megan Bailey has more than 18 years of leadership experience in the healthcare industry. As Chief Executive Officer of Personal Genome Diagnostics (PGDx), she leverages her extensive knowledge of clinical diagnostics, business development, and commercialization to lead a team focused on providing precision cancer care solutions that allow all patients to have access to best-in-class genomic testing. Prior to her role as CEO, she served as Chief Commercial Officer, leading the Company’s marketing, sales, and customer support teams, and before that, as Vice President of Marketing.
She began her career in diagnostics with Ventana Medical Systems, a company with a patient-focused mission to improve cancer diagnostics globally. Following Roche Diagnostics’ acquisition of Ventana in 2008, Megan spent the next 10 years rapidly progressing through commercial leadership roles of increasing responsibility. In her last role at Roche, she served as Senior Director of Commercial Operations, responsible for a $200M+ portfolio across four divisions, addressing multiple disease states and market segments.
Within Megan’s first year as CEO of PGDx, she successfully restructured the overall business and delivered several significant commercial milestones, including the first ever FDA clearance of a comprehensive genomic profiling product, positive Medicare reimbursement coverage, and high impact partnerships with oncology leaders, pharmaceutical partners, and co-development partners. In February 2021, she closed a $103M Series C financing – the largest round achieved by the company to date – with a new lead investor and a blue-chip syndicate.
Megan is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and earned her Master of Public Health from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Megan serves on the UMB Foundation Board of Trustees and the Army West Point Athletic Association Board of Directors.
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hi i'm claire i am a senior partner at for clinical executive search pro clinical are one of the biggest global search firms in life sciences and i'm honored to be joined here today by megan bailey megan is ceo of personal genome diagnostics megan has more than eighteen years of leadership experience in the health care industry as ceo of personal genome diagnostics she leverages her extensive knowledge of clinical diagnostics business development and commercialization to lead a team focused on providing precision cancer care solutions that allow patients to have access to best in class genomic testing prior to her role as ceo she served as chief commercial officer leading the company's marketing sales and customer support teams and before that as vice president of marketing she began her career in diagnostics with vanta medical systems a company with a patient focused mission to improve cancer diagnostics globally following roche diagnostics acquisition of vanna in two thousand eight megan spent the next ten years rapidly progressing through commercial leadership roles of increasing responsibility in her last role at roche she served as senior director of commercial operations responsible for a two hundred million dollar plus portfolio across four divisions addressing multiple disease states and market segments within megan's first year as ceo of personal genome diagnostics she successfully restructured the overall business and delivered several significant commercial milestones including the first ever fda clearance of a comprehensive genomic profiling product positive medicare reimbursement coverage and high impact partnerships with oncology leaders pharmaceutical partners and co development partners in february twenty twenty one she closed a hundred and three million dollar series c financing the largest round achieved by the company to date with a new lead investor and blue chip syndicate megan is graduate of united states military academy at west point and her masters of public health from the university of north carolina chapel hill megan served on the um b foundation board of trustees and the army west point athletic association board of directors megan welcome thanks for joining us today[Unknown26]:
thanks claire it's good to talk with you[Unknown25]:
at last week you closed a deal with labcorp to acquire personal genome diagnostics for close to six hundred million dollars congratulations what[Unknown26]:
were the key components that made personal genome diagnostics so attractive to lab court[Unknown26]:
say it's really our technology and kind of the scientific expertise and broad expertise in the organization regulatory quality all all the things that have to work successfully together to bring innovative products to market and in this case we've built products that address precision oncology gaps so these are tests that can look at hundreds of biomarkers out of a single patient sample tissue or blood identify what's driving cancer patients tumor and direct to targeted therapy against it and so labcorp obviously is a market leader in health care related testing services it has significant commercial and operational kind of infrastructure partnerships reach and has a similar vision to bring precision medicine closer to all cancer patients wherever they are and so i think they really saw our innovation and the technology and capabilities in the product pipeline that combined with their commercial and operational infrastructure could really help fulfill the vision in an area of really high strategic priority for the organization so we're thrilled about the combination as you said it's quite new it just closed so we're moving into the next phase of integration but really excited about the impact on cancer care that we strive to have together[Unknown25]:
wonderful thanks so yeah really finding that gap in the market and addressing that and then finding a good partner that sounds sounds incredible what was the greatest challenge that you had to overcome during oh actually i wanted to ask you in twenty twenty you're appointed ceo of personal genome diagnostics you initially joined as vp of marketing how did you prepare yourself to become ceo and is it something that you've always wanted to do[Unknown26]:
it's a great question and the honest answer is no not really i've never aspired to a title or a role i'll tell a quick personal story so i i grew up a military brat my father served forty one years in the military he ended his career as the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and senior military advisor to president obama and he went back at one point to speak at the military academy and one of the cadets asked how do i become a four star general and his response was really first by not by not striving for that by that not being your goal like go out and be the best second lieutenant you can be be the best platoon leader you can be you know the soldiers entrusted to your care are relying on you to be that and then when you have the privilege of leading at the next level do the same thing and so you know i learned a lot from that and i think i've approached my career in a similar manner where every role that i had the opportunity to kind of lead in i tried to maximize the impact i could have there on both the business but also the individual people that i led and you know fulfillment of their career goals and i think if you try to collect every bit of experience and learn everything you can from every role and treat everyone you know with that level of seriousness in the end you end up feeling more prepared for the next thing as a result of that work you put into the one you're in so i would say that's really been the mentality i have followed more so than you know aspiring to be a ceo that being said i guess my other honest part of this answer would be i'm not sure anything can really prepare you um for it and so i'm sure we'll get into that a bit but certainly a ton to learn very quickly as i made that transition because it is a markedly different role in the level of responsibility to the company and employees but also as i quickly found out you know to the board and shareholders and investors so certainly a broader scope and there is um you know clear learnings in that but i would say you know i really tried to prepare for the role by doing the best job i could in every other role along the career path[Unknown25]:
yeah thank you so much for saying that quite often everybody's aspiring for the next thing even as they're going for one role they're all already trying to get the next one and um yeah thank you for sharing that perspective that's so helpful what was the greatest challenge you had to overcome during the transition from cco to ceo[Unknown26]:
well for one thing the[Unknown25]:
timing was quite interesting so i stepped into the role of ceo in april of twenty twenty which was you know really the first big wave of the pandemic was facing everyone and so[Unknown25]:
you know one personal genome diagnostics prior to the lab corp acquisition was a small private company venture capital backed and you know this technology that we were developing and trying to bring to market requires substantial investment and so one the market conditions we're making securing that investment more challenging there were operational considerations around how to run the business given the situation at the time with covid and frankly in some cases still and so the the truth is the company was in a difficult position both financially and operationally and so probably the biggest you know learning curve i faced was how to assess a lot of information in a very short amount of time and make pretty broad scale decisions and i had to do that because of the element of time which is often a startup's biggest enemy and i'm fortunate that i came from the role i did to know really the people through the business the technology the partnerships coming from the inside i think gave me at least the right foundation to assess those things but seeing the whole puzzle together and knowing that you know some pretty significant decisions needed to be made very quickly you know you learn that you're never going to have perfect data sets on that you're never going to have one hundred percent of the information you want you're never going to be one hundred percent certain that the decisions are right but i really strove to get the right[Unknown25]:
inputs both from people and data you know make rapid decisions and know that we'll iterate as we go as quickly as we need to to kind of get our feet back under us but you know it was an interesting time to step in in that regard because there was you know it wasn't a slow learning curve i will say that a lot to figure out in a short amount of time just to secure the company's future[Unknown25]:
he had a very successful career at rosch for fifteen years it must have been a big move to make at that time what criteria did you have when considering new career opportunities and why in the end did you decide to go with personal genome diagnostics[Unknown26]:
first i'll start by saying i have nothing but tremendous things to say about my time at roche diagnostics i mean it's a fantastic company it touches patients on a broad scale globally every day has great technology and capabilities and so you know i'm actually thankful that i spent as much of my career there as i did because i think it was a great training round just the way that business is run and the way that organization brings products to market you learn a lot from that um that being said because it's so big in terms of infrastructure and people and systems and processes you know you can't make the large scale impact you want at certain levels as fast as you might want to be able to make those and so you know i reached a point in my career where i really wanted to test could i kind of build and scale something and lead something where i knew every day the decisions that i made or the teams i led and what we contributed or impacted or didn't would massively change the trajectory of the company and so you know frankly i was nervous to do it it's a it was a risky thing to do i i was on a good career path there it was probably definitely the safer option but i did kind of i felt like at that stage of my career i did want more of that kind of test more of that autonomy and responsibility and direct impact for the success or not of a company and strategy and then how i assessed personal genome diagnostics is really how i've assessed most things in my life which is i'm very driven by purpose and so you know i do have a deep passion for oncology as you mentioned in my last role at rosch i had progressed to where i was leading across four divisions great leadership experience but that took me farther from kind of the core of my passion which was oncology i knew pg dx was trying to do something pretty disruptive in the market by bringing this sort of technology to where patients are being seen and treated where the market paradigm had been very centralized only a handful of labs that could can run these sorts of tests all the samples had to come to those centralized laboratories pg dx was and is still aspiring to productize those offerings so that the test can be run in hospital systems reference labs academic centers across the us and across the globe and so i was captivated by the mission by the opportunity i thought it represented to really elevate the standard of cancer care for all patients wherever they needed the test and wherever they were seeking treatment and so i felt like it was a good pairing of a career kind of test i wanted for myself and a mission that i could get behind and believe in and that that's why i i made the leap i did[Unknown25]:
i love that you had the courage just to just move forward into that you know it's a complete unknown a new role in your company and and having the courage to do that so it's excellent thinking back on your journey what are three lessons you learned or principles you operate by that you believe are most valuable to run a successful and profitable business[Unknown26]:
the the first thing i would say is culture i just i think um so much of a business success comes down to the culture that you set within it and so at pg dx for example i shared a set of leadership principles that were really a way to try to drive alignment around how we were going to operate together and interact with each other and you know they were things like a bias for action this idea of you know we need to trust each other to make the best decisions we can with the information at hand and show up the next day and do the same and you have the opportunity to iterate but if you know if you're scared to make a decision because you think the minute something doesn't go exactly as planned somebody will be standing there to critique you nobody will make a decision in that environment and so you know that was one we had one around say it in the room right if we're having a meeting we can't have the scenario where the actual meeting happens five minutes later in the hallway right we've all seen that where it's like somebody had a concern they didn't raise it at the table you know it's raised outside of the conversation and what does that lead to either misalignment or like five more meetings to bring it back together versus just saying it trusting each other um to come at decisions with the right intentions but a different perspective and that that different perspective is exactly why we're all sitting in the room together so that's just a couple but um you know i feel strongly that aligning people around a common culture and set of principles and how you're going to operate together is really a core tenant to being successful the second one which is really strongly tied to it but i think is worth saying independently is mission like remembering why you're doing what you're doing here obviously we have one that people are very personally passionate about in helping cancer patients around the world and it's those constant reminders and keeping that front of mind for people that i think gets organizations and teams through challenging times if it was just about the business being successful as a business and financials and those sorts of things i think when you hit the hardest moments that that's not what people rally around they rally around why they came to work that day and what the you know hundreds of products you sold represented in hundreds of patients touched so i think keeping that whatever your business is i think keeping the core of like why do people want to come work here what are they here to actually do is really important and then i guess the last one i would say that is more business oriented you often hear the expression like think big but act small i really believe in that as well you need a vision and you need people to know what we aspire to be five years from now but you only get there by like specific actions and deliverables and progress every single day and so i think if you if you don't know where you're going that's challenging if you have a vision but you know everything in between is a little fuzzy um i don't think you ever fulfill it and so i think it's you know it's really having the balance of those two that help a team really advance and in the end you know you sort of look up and and are able to say you know we did what we wanted to do but it's a daily effort it's not a it's not a quarterly board you know board meeting report it's like a day to day commitment[Unknown25]:
thank you so much for giving the examples of culture too because quite often we hear that culture is important but to get to the point of specifics was really helpful you sit on the board of university of maryland many women i speak to are looking for their first board position what advice would you have for them is there anything that they can do to prepare or certain types of people they should reach out to and how should they present their experience in a way that says they would make a good board member[Unknown26]:
i think first the question you know i would ask is why do you want to be on a board and then what kind of board and so it just so happens that the two i serve on right now are non profit boards and the reason i'm on those one the um bf board of trustees university of maryland baltimore foundation is obviously local here in baltimore and you know it's really the whole intent of the board is around strategies related to investment into the baltimore community and philanthropic strategy tied to community initiatives here and so in my day job here you know we're focused on impacting cancer care globally and that's very motivating to me but but i live in baltimore i'm raising sons in baltimore and so for me that one came about because i just started talking to people that i met through work engagements or sports engagements that were from here i'm not um and just trying to understand like who's doing what because i felt like a gap for me is i just really wanted a way to invest and be involved in and aware of things happening locally in baltimore where i'm calling home at least for now so and then the other one is the is the army athletic association board of directors i was an athlete at army i feel a lot of who i am as a leader and person frankly was framed through my time at the academy and so that was more a personal connection and just wanting to find a way to give back so i share those to say i think it's just important to first assess what is motivating you to want to be on a board what kind of board is it because you're seeking to give in a certain way or be fulfilled in a certain way is it for experience for something else you want to do because you're looking to transition industries for career and maybe board you know is a way to start to gain a network in another industry i think you have to assess the motivation first you know and then a lot of it can happen organically because once you know that i think then it's a matter of talking to people who you know touch boards and organizations in those areas and just be open about you know what you're looking for you know and why and what's what's motivating you don't want to do it in terms of experience i would just say a very high level comment but i think it's about showing your ability to ask the right questions not really have the right answers because you know from what i've seen good boarded dynamics and discussion or about people who ask the question that you weren't thinking about or maybe ask it in a way that puts a different lens on it board members that bring their expertise and know what that is and how to help but just as importantly know what's not their lane and and um you know try not to drive a leader down a path for for something that they maybe don't have experience in to guide you so i think me becoming ceo and having the opportunity to be on the board at pg dx was also helpful for me to see like what do i value in board member input and feedback and perspective and try to model that and i really think a lot of it is like seeing things from a broader perspective and asking the right question just to prompt a different you know mindset or thinking pattern around a specific problem or opportunity[Unknown25]:
thanks megan and that's so helpful and uh yeah you know i really love[Unknown26]:
that you mentioned that you're an athlete and i read recently that many ceos being our ceos have previously been athletes can you tell me how or if that's impacted your experience as a ceo[Unknown26]:
i it certainly has i i think i think sports teaches so many life lessons and leadership lessons i mean one there is a clear discipline around athletics in general but i would say especially competing at that level and so again that ability to like show up for an early morning workout um you know and you had to study late for a test or got back from a road trip and still had to go to class and you know you ha like you have to show up and you have to put in the time and effort if you want to compete on the court the way in my case is basketball do you want to compete on the court the way you seek to and you know when it's really all the other time that nobody sees right on the court with the fans like that's the fun time but it's the you know it's the weight training sessions and the you know the track sessions and the film sessions studying you know tape of the game the night before and all the things you should have done better so i think just the discipline around the hard work and the willingness to evaluate yourself and see the truth of areas that you need to get better in to be at the level you want to a lot of that is similar to what you have to do in business i think there's also the team element again in my case basketball but you know very different roles if you're a post player or a point guard but if if you don't t play your role and fulfill your role well right you're not going to win a game in most cases because one person shows up you know plays a game it's a team of five on the court for a reason and so i think that mentality has shaped how i lead i think losing um you know if you compete you're gonna lose and i think again figuring out like what do you need to get better at so you win the next time that constant dealing with failure and how to adapt and get better yeah i think there's tons of lessons that come from it and again in my case i played at the military academy which also had a whole host of other lessons um related to leadership and a lot of what i i would say a lot of what i drew on especially in the last two years through some pretty tough times were lessons that i learned now more than twenty years ago through all of that[Unknown25]:
that's so inspiring thanks megan what can we do as executive level women in the workplace to support the next generation of female leaders[Unknown26]:
yeah i think for first just like be[Unknown25]:
um be engaged enough to see talent and not let that talent hold itself back i think you probably know the data on this better than i do but you know[Unknown25]:
there is some studies about how a woman will read a job description and and you know maybe she meets nine of ten qualifications but doesn't meet one and she won't apply because she's not qualified right and similar studies will show you know often a man will read the same exact set of job qualifications and might meet five and says i'm gonna compete for the role you know i think we were hard critics on ourselves in a lot of cases women you know you feel like you have to check all the boxes and be fully prepared to take the next step in your career and so i think one way we can help is just by being more authentic and open ourselves to say you know i didn't feel qualified to be c e o when i was asked to be ceo all i really did was have the courage to say yes and show up and be willing to draw on all the experience i did have you know rely on on a great team and and learn really quickly and so maybe that's an extreme example but you know i think just encouraging um younger female talent that you don't have to have a perfect set of qualifications it's okay if you don't feel um ready to do it and put some support around them and help you know pull people along in a way that lets them not hold themselves back from fulfilling their full potential[Unknown25]:
wonderful well thank thank you so much megan for all of your advice for taking the time to share your experience i know many of the the women and people in our audience will really appreciate the guidance so thank you so much[Unknown26]:
thanks so much for having me claire i appreciate it