By Christine Bolaños
atinas in STEM know their
positions hold great responsibility
as they work to better their
communities and the world they live in.
They also carry the torch of the Latina
scientists who came before them and
for the young Latinas in STEM who
seek to follow in their footsteps. Women
such as Sara Isbell, who formed her
own company determined to research
and nd cures for neurodegenerative
diseases and traumatic brain injuries,
Sara del Valle who specializes in
understanding the spread of infectious
diseases and how to better prepare
for possible pandemics, Pilar Manchon,
Director of Cognitive Interfaces at
Amazon Machine Learning and Dr.
Monica DeZulueta, Data Architect and
Computer Scientist at Microsoft are the
ones carrying the torch.
CEO and Co-Founder
Sara Isbell will never forget her first day of
college. She was at chemistry orientation,
amongst some 300 people, listening to a
panel of elites talk about the opportunities that
awaited students pursuing STEM. But one
panelist’s comment struck her. It seemed he
was looking straight her way as he said what
would turn into pivotal words: “If you are a woman
you have no chance of making it in this field,
especially if you have a child.”
Preparing the Future
Isbell had her child in a stroller sitting next to her at
the orientation. Instead of letting his words discourage
her she used them to fuel her thirst for greater things.
“I remember thinking I’m going to prove him
wrong,” she says.
Today, the one-time single teenage mother is CEO,
president and co-founder of a neuroscience-based,
breakthrough biopharmaceutical startup called
Together with a team of expert scientists, Isbell
works in the laboratory to search for a cure for
neurodegenerative diseases and traumatic brain
injury. Her goal is to create an oral medication that
prevents the effects of brain trauma in people who
are most at risk such as athletes and military
personal. The medication could also help stop
conditions like Alzheimer’s, ALS, epilepsy, alcohol
withdrawal and stroke from progressing.
It’s an ambitious goal but working at a company
run by scientists with the goal of bettering health
over making money could be a recipe for success.
“The mission is to do real science and not have
Mercaptor Discoveries CEO, Sara Isbell,
researches potential treatments for Traumatic
Brain Injury (TBI) onsite in her lab.
it dictated by Wall Street,” Isbell says. She has
worked in numerous biotech companies
where research projects got shut down if they
didn’t seem to progress enough to make revenue
within a year.
Mercaptor Discoveries was a result of 11
scientists who got laid off from their previous
positions taking matters into their own hands.
“We wanted to be part of a company that
starts a movement to show how science and
research is not based on money and selling
high-priced drugs,” Isbell shares. “In order to
progress in science, you need to be open to
what your data will say.”
She is excited about how the science the
company is working on is working in animal
trials thus far. The company is also seeking
funding from alternative sources instead of
“I don’t feel accomplished,” she states. “That
almost feels like an endpoint. I’m always working
and striving to learn more until the day I die.”
“ In order to progress in science, you need to be
open to what your data will say. ”
12 www.latinastyle.com LATINAStyle Vol. 24, No. 4, 2018