Raili the entrepreneur

Created by john on 06/21/2013
I have learned over the years that I have worked in the field of cancer research and drug development to never under-estimate cancer patients. They have a way of doing amazing things in defiance of such a scary and menacing disease. But, what kind of person learns that she has inoperable Stage IV cancer for which there is no known treatment and decides to start not one, but two, biotech companies? My friend Raili Kerppola, that’s who. Raili past away early Wednesday morning, 2 ½ years after her bleak diagnosis and long, long after the experts expected her to. In this time, she founded two promising biotech companies. One of the companies, Atterocor, just initiated first in human clinical trials for a new drug to treat Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma (ACC), the disease that took her life. The other, ONL Therapeutics, is developing drugs to prevent blindness and is approximately a year from filing an IND to begin human trials. To be able to get one company to advance to such a stage of development is an accomplishment for any biotech entrepreneur. To be able to get two companies to advance simultaneously while battling a terminal disease is remarkable by any definition. The past two years have also been 2 of the most difficult years I have faced on both a personal and professional level, but the past few months working side-by-side with Raili have given me perspective – perhaps much needed perspective. I am lucky to have known Raili Kerppola, lucky to have worked with her, lucky to have called her my friend, and lucky to have the opportunity to continue her work at ONL. It is both an honor and a daunting responsibility to try to lead ONL to become the fitting legacy she deserves. This week, I learned a new word from Raili’s daughter Marianna – sisu. In Marianna’s words, “Sisu is a Finnish ideology that can be described as a combination of tenacity, endurance and resilience.” Yes, Marianna, your mother had Sisu – in spades. Raili – be well, my friend, and please share some of your sisu from time to time as your watch over us.