Women in Business ’13: Jane Wasman

The president of Acorda Therapeutics’ International & General Counsel

Debuting a new drug and marketing it, with all the FDA regulations attached, is legally tricky, to say the least. So is taking a company public, making sure it complies with all SEC regulations post-IPO. So is, for that matter, expanding a company—not just nationally, but internationally.

Jane Wasman, president, international & general counsel of Acorda Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company in Ardsley, has done all this, and more. She joined Acorda’s in-house legal team in 2004, shortly before the release of Zanaflex capsules, its first marketed product, which reduces muscle spasticity in patients with MS, spinal cord injuries, and brain trauma. She helped the company build its marketing and distribution infrastructure “almost overnight,” she says, which is no small feat considering all the regulations put on marketing pharmaceuticals. Two years later, she served as chief general counsel during Acorda’s IPO, bringing the company public while still negotiating major product and company acquisition deals. Earlier this year, she spearheaded a redesign of operations that better allowed for collaboration within the company—and now she has her sites set abroad, participating in strategic planning for Acorda to expand internationally.

But what really drives Wasman is the end result of her work—not the bottom line. “This company is devoted to helping improve the lives of people who are dealing with really devastating medical conditions and diseases,” she says. “That’s what we come to work for every day. We’re developing drugs that make a difference in people’s lives.” She cites bringing the drug Ampyra to market as one of her greatest career achievements, since it helps people with multiple sclerosis improve their ability to walk. “We should all feel proud of that,” she says.

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Wasman also takes pride in mentoring the approximately 25 people who report to her, many of whom are also women. “It’s great for them to see that a woman can, in fact, get to the executive team,” she says. She notes that women comprise 59 percent of Acorda’s full-time employees, for no reason other than the company “genuinely values diversity.” 

Looking beyond her company, Wasman contributes to the area’s biotech boom by serving on the board of New York Bio (formerly NYBA). “New York as a state has everything to be a major biotech hub, and we haven’t quite gotten there yet,” she says. “We have some of the best university and research institutions in the world, we have a major financial center, and New York and New Jersey have great companies. It just hasn’t all pulled together. We can work with people in the surrounding areas and make that happen.”

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