Puja Sapra, PhD

Senior Vice President, Head R&D Biologics Engineering and Head Oncology Targeted Delivery
AstraZeneca
AWIS member since 2023

“Always seek mentors; you learn from diverse thoughts. Establish good relations and they become your best advocates.”

AWIS member Puja Sapra, PhD

What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned?

To be flexible, and not be afraid to try a new approaches or ideas that will make a meaningful difference in the outcome.

What do you aspire to accomplish in your career and why? What obstacles will you overcome?

I wish to continue to make a big impact in cancer patients’ lives. Throughout my career, I have worked on strategies to target tumors, develop biotherapeutics, and build innovative platforms that hopefully will redefine cancer care.

What is your favorite word?

Dream

How do you define it?

Dream is the ability to be excited by what’s possible, and to set a vision and a path to make things happen.

How has this word influenced or inspired your career?

I grew up in a small town in India in a highly educated and progressive family. My parents, in particular my Mom, always motivated me to dream big and said “You can do anything that anyone else can do and more.”

However, even in this supportive environment I did not have a role model or someone I could ask about what it is like to be a scientist. When I shared my desire to become a scientist with my parents, they encouraged me to follow my dream but could not provide insight on the path to follow. Luckily my parents gave me freedom to carve my path and to build a career in science, including support to apply for competitive scholarships to fund my education, and independence to travel the world for science career opportunities. With a world class education from three continents, and a rich exposure to drug development in multiple biotechs and pharmaceuticals, I was able to carve my career path and fulfill my dream of a scientific trajectory.

How does AWIS impact your career journey?

AWIS encourages me to continue to be curious and dream, advocate more for women to have a seat at the table in science, and be true to myself.

What do you consider the best professional or personal advice you’ve ever received?

Always seek mentors; you learn from diverse thoughts. Establish good relations and they become your best advocates.

Puja Sapra, PhD, is Senior Vice President, Head R&D Biologics Engineering and Head Oncology Targeted Delivery for AstraZeneca. In this role she leads two organizations; one dedicated to discovering and engineering novel biomolecules and the other focused on the preclinical development of targeted cancer therapeutics and novel delivery mechanisms that selectively attack cancer cells while sparing normal healthy tissues. She is an internationally recognized leader in the area of Antibody-drug conjugates (ADC) and has contributed to the development of many ADCs including Besponsa and Mylotarg. Dr. Puja earned her PhD in Pharmacology from the University of Alberta and has authored more than 75 scientific publications and book chapters. She is the recognized inventor or co-inventor of more than 25 patents in the field and is a member of several scientific and medical societies, including the American Association for Cancer Research, and also serves as the Deputy Editor of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.