Alumni Achievement Award 2018 – Krista McKerracher

Leading a new conversation in health and well-being

Krista McKerracher.Krista McKerracher has distinguished herself as an exemplary and bold leader in the complex terrain of drug discovery and development. Her career has been driven by her commitment to improve access and quality of health treatments for those who require them, and her contributions can be felt on a global scale.

A graduate of the Faculty’s Health Studies program in 1984, Krista entered the pharmaceuticals field in Ontario in 1985. Her trajectory took her from a sales representative with Merrell Pharmaceutical, into the biotech area as a Product Specialist with Ortho Biotech, a Johnson & Johnson company, to Vice President, Global Franchise Program Head, Oncology Global Development at Novartis pharmaceuticals in the United States. There, she led three global cross-functional development teams across three sites in the U.S. and Europe.  Her teams developed two life-saving “orphan drugs” (pharmaceuticals that remain commercially undeveloped, often because they are used to treat rare medical conditions), achieving approval for launch in more than 100 countries. 
Career accomplishments aside, Krista has literally aided health and well-being on individual, community and population levels through each facet of her professional, personal and community achievements. She is everything from a fearless, outspoken survivor of kidney cancer who understands the impact of pharmaceutical innovation on patients, to a proven volunteer, advisor and mentor, including to women in healthcare. She has received recognition for this valuable service both individually and as a member of a team collective.
A true pioneer, she founded Fig Advisory, a consultancy that works with the C.E.O.s of small biopharmaceutical companies, a year ago. She is a mentor with SpringBoard, an incubator for high-growth technology-oriented companies led by women. Krista also brings her unique skills to CRISPR Therapeutics, a company developing ground-breaking gene-editing technology that engineers blood stem cells and corrects mutations that cause disease in patients with blood diseases. She and her team aspire to cure sickle cell disease and β thalassemias.
Throughout numerous professional and personal changes, Krista has remained a loyal alumna and supporter of the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Applied Health Sciences priorities and mission. Like the Faculty’s bold founders, she is unafraid to champion previously untested ideas and break boundaries to do so. Krista is thereby leading new conversations and inspiring the next generation of health innovators to reach for a future of improved health and well-being, both at home and around the world. This commitment aligns with the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences’ focus today and since its founding over fifty years ago: innovative, multi-disciplinary approaches to health and well-being.