Dr. Lisa Anderson

My name is Lisa Anderson, and I am the founder and CEO of Paragonix Technologies, a Boston-based company transforming organ transplantation.

We develop and market advanced organ preservation devices that protect, monitor, and track precious donor organs during transit to their intended transplant recipient.

However, I wasn’t originally involved in the field of organ transplantation. The first time I saw a human organ donated for research, I discovered that the way these precious organs (for transplant into a recipient or for research) were placed in one of those conventional coolers that you could find at a local convenience store. It was shocking to realize that the organ itself was partially covered with ice, risking cellular injury to the organ tissue due to the unmonitored exposure to freezing temperatures.

This moment never left my mind. How could it? We live in the 21st century, an era of astounding technology and innovation, yet I had just stumbled upon an aspect of transplant which felt like a relic from the past. The standard of care in organ preservation hadn’t changed since the very inception of organ transplantation roughly 70 years ago. From this point on, I was determined to deliver a new standard in donor organ preservation. This determination drove me to leave behind my academic career at Harvard Medical School and soon thereafter, I conceptualized a device that would not only offer transplant teams greater control of an organ’s environment, but also allow them to monitor and track the device in real-time. In 2018, we launched our flagship product, the Paragonix SherpaPak® Cardiac Transport System. Now, Paragonix’s proprietary technology has protected, tracked, and monitored over 2,500 donor organs across the United States and Europe – no longer just hearts, but lungs and livers, with kidneys and pancreas soon to follow. It’s been a humbling experience to receive the resounding support of so many within the transplant community as we continue to expand our products and services to encompass the entire donor organ transport experience.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No! However, throughout my academic studies and research efforts in complex disease genetics at the most preeminent institutions in the world, I was fortunate to be surrounded by the most inspiring individuals who nurtured an incredible culture of big ideas, big change and big impact. This meant that once my mind became fixated on solving a critical issue in transplantation (I.e. replacing ice cooler storage of human organs with high tech), a career change seemed simply a by-product of executing my new mission. Within a couple of years, I had completely shifted my career to step up as a leader in transplantation. The idea of Paragonix may have occurred to me by happenstance, but once the idea formed, it remained: I knew that Paragonix was my opportunity to create a new standard of care. And that opportunity became one so incredibly precious because it meant having the chance to improve, or even save, another person’s life. The success of Paragonix today is the culmination of countless hours of active development, research, and strategy. Every step forward is only taken after every other avenue is fully considered to achieve the best possible outcome for each and every patient in need of a transplant.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

From the very inception of Paragonix, I had to acknowledge that my ambitions were set high. When you aspire to revolutionize the established standard of care with a heritage of nearly 70 years, it takes time, perseverance, and absolute dedication to begin changing mindsets. Rejection was not uncommon in the early days, but I was fortunate to have a support network of clinical professionals who believed in my vision. Belief alone is not enough, however. As a scientist myself, I recognized how critical it would be to amass the research necessary to prove the value of my product. I am forever grateful to our growing team of clinical investigators, a group of prestigious surgeons from across the world who helped build the GUARDIAN registries, which is now recognized as the largest international clinical database dedicated specifically to donor organ preservation. Together, we compare the clinical outcomes between our advanced organ preservation devices and conventional ice storage. In a recent ground-breaking report, our investigators noted a one-year survival rate of 96.4% in patients where the Paragonix SherpaPak® Cardiac Transport System was used, which translates to an 8.7% increase in one-year survival when compared to traditional ice transport.1 It is incredibly rewarding to share validated data such as this with surgeons I have always held in high esteem, who now actively follow and engage with our research with great interest.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

This month, Paragonix released a program dubbed VantagePointTM Advanced Tracking, which I am especially proud to have launched. From the early beginning, I was determined to create a preservation system that could do more than protect a donor organ – it also needed to provide the utmost levels of data so that transplant teams had full visibility and access to critical information that was previously unattainable. We’re talking about safeguarding the most precious, honoured gift a donor could offer in their lifetime. There is absolutely no room for mistakes, which is possibly one of the heaviest responsibilities one can bear. I intended to relieve that burden.

This achievement has been years in the making. Throughout the lifetime of Paragonix, our team has augmented our preservation devices with a state-of-the-art app customized to suit the needs of the entire transplant team. The Paragonix App is a comprehensive digital platform that natively pairs with any Paragonix device in use, allowing responsible parties to monitor the temperature and stability of the thermal environment from any phone, tablet, or even computer. Last month, we significantly enhanced our digital capabilities with the addition of VantagePointTM, a highly-requested tracking feature that will remotely deliver hyper-accurate location data of the organ in transit, without the need for personnel to accompany our device. This is an especially versatile advancement, offering a reliable solution to common concerns that can arise during procurement. I consider VantagePointTM an incredible feat, finally manifesting the full impact I had envisioned over a decade ago.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Perseverance. I like to believe that there is no challenge that cannot be overcome without effort. It is so incredibly important to maintain the determination and resilience necessary to face whatever is in your path and push past it – especially when the finish line is not yet in sight.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Find a cause that inspires you, professionally and personally. Success is driven by dedication, and you will excel when you pursue a career that aligns with your personal values. That being said – remember that no career is a straightforward path! Embrace new opportunities, and don’t fear the idea of rejection or failure. Challenges will never appear quite so daunting when you are motivated by more than just ambition.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

As the leader and innovator of my own business, I believe it is vital to actively create new opportunities that can enable career progression against the biases that still exist in society. Empowerment can encompass so many things – from initial recruitment, to recognizing the talent of current employees, to instilling values of inclusivity and accessibility into the foundation of the company itself. It is always crucial to hear from a wide range of perspectives and voices, especially in the field of medical technology where our mission is to support any and all patients. I will always strive to ensure a level playing field for women, inside and outside of my own company.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Women! Personal connections with all those incredible women in tech. There is nothing more reassuring than hearing other women share their personal story 1:1 with you. You don’t need to interview hundreds of women to find inspiration. Find one or two female mentors in the tech space and you’ll be surprised how a deep professional connection can catapult your confidence, your network and your impact to new heights.