RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – After more than two decades of game-changing accomplishments in the life science world, Sheila Mikhail has been “discovered.”

Mikhail, a lawyer with an unusual commitment to life science possibilities and talent to translate those into numerous businesses, joined visionary scientists Jude Samulski and Xiao Xiao in 2001 to co-found Asklepios BioPharmaceutical, Inc. (AskBio). The rest, as they say, is history. And this team is making more of that every day in North Carolina’s Research Triangle.

Springboard Enterprises, dubbed a “network of influencers, investors and innovators dedicated to building high-growth companies led by women who are transforming industries in technology and life science,” has named Mikhail its “2019 Northstar Honoree.”

Mikhail received the award Wednesday at Springboard Enterprises’ 13th Annual Winners’ Circle Dinner, held at The Boathouse in New York’s Central Park.


Mikhail’s AskBio co-founder Samulski was the first scientist to clone adeno-associated virus (AAV), and Xiao was the first to develop a miniaturized dystrophin gene enabling the advancement of gene therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Since this trio put their stake in the ground, their company has raised hundreds of millions of dollars in capital, acquired and sold an array of leading gene therapy companies, and built a gene therapy platform with AskBio’s foundational AAV technology.

AAV has emerged as an efficient, safe, and versatile vehicle for delivering corrective genes into the body. Significantly, the AskBio platform was used to develop the only two FDA-approved gene therapies available today: Zolgensma and Luxterna. And it’s used by more than two-thirds of gene therapy companies worldwide.

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AskBio, created with early funding support from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center as one of the first gene therapy companies in the world, now owns more than 500 patents and applications for AAV technology and processes. AskBio’s gene therapy platform includes not only a robust pipeline of potentially curative gene therapies. The company has also established a groundbreaking manufacturing process that attracts suitors and partners from around the world.

“Throughout her remarkable career, Sheila Mikhail has epitomized the heart and soul of what we at Springboard Enterprises strive to highlight with the Northstar Honoree program,” said Amy Millman, president and co-founder of Springboard Enterprises, in announcing the award.

“The women we select are high-performing entrepreneurs who are transforming their industries through the discovery, investment in and commercialization of breakthrough innovations in technology, science and products that make our lives healthier, wealthier and more informed. Sheila is an extraordinary example of what happens when passion, drive and skills meet opportunity. Like all past Northstar Honorees, Sheila is an industry-leading businesswoman and innovator who is making the impossible possible.”

Mikhail accepted the award as “a tremendous honor for which I am and will always be eternally grateful. One of my personal goals is to help inspire other women to push past whatever obstacles may be in front of them and stay focused on what they want to — and can — achieve.”

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“In accepting this award,” she said, “I also want to recognize and thank my colleagues at AskBio and past employers for the support, guidance and confidence they’ve given me. No one earns something like this solely on her own. It takes trust, teamwork and a shared vision of the future to build a company like AskBio that is changing lives, and I feel truly blessed to be a part of this organization.”

Mikhail received a JD, with honors, from Northwestern University; a finance MBA, with honors, from the University of Chicago; and a BS, with highest honors, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Headquartered in North Carolina’s iconic Research Triangle Park, AskBio is a fully integrated AAV gene therapy platform company focused on providing curative therapeutics for genetic disorders. AskBio’s portfolio includes an expansive capsid library, scaled manufacturing technology branded as Pro10, and new delivery methods to accelerate and lower the cost of end-to-end gene therapy processes and support.

Springboard says its mission is “to accelerate the growth of entrepreneurial companies led by women through access to essential resources and a global community of experts.”

Springboard says that since 2000, more than 750 Springboard portfolio companies seeking investment of financial and human capital for product development and expansion have raised $9.5 billion, created tens of thousands of new jobs, and generated billions in annual revenues, with 190 exits to strategic acquirers and 19 IPOs.

(C) N.C. Biotech Center