Getting to know Rachel Zolot Schwartz, VP, Business Development & Commercial

June 28, 2021

Welcome to Rachel Zolot Schwartz, who recently joined Volastra as Vice President, Business Development & Commercial. We sat down with Rachel to get to know her a little bit better, learn about her partnering philosophy and hear why she’s excited to be a part of Volastra as the company brings about a new era in cancer treatment.

Why did you decide to join Volastra?

Three things drew my attention to Volastra: the science, the opportunity, and the people. It was very clear to me that Volastra was pioneering a transformative way to think about cancer as opposed to looking just to make an incremental improvement on what already exists. In addition, everyone I met during the interview process was incredibly impressive and passionate. I knew I wanted to be a part of it.

Large pharmaceutical companies provide many excellent foundational experiences, but teams are often quite defined and separate entities, and I was seeking a place where I could be involved in a project from start to finish – to feel real ownership across each part of the deal process. I’m excited to have a hand in every step of the way and build relationships with potential partners from the very beginning.

What do you think are the most important qualities of a business development partner?

The best partners are transparent, collaborative, and decisive, and these attributes are generally clear from the initial conversations. To me, being transparent and collaborative go hand in hand. A good partner is not only willing to share their view with a high degree of honesty, but they are acutely aware and forthcoming about their core capabilities and the areas where they may not be as strong. Good partners are willing to build on complementary capabilities and work together to unlock more value than they alone can generate.

With regard to decisiveness, how a partner makes and communicates decisions early on in the deal process very much dictates how they will make decisions throughout the partnership. Decisiveness is also a reflection of how committed they are to being a cohesive team.

Together transparency, collaboration, and decisiveness create an environment of mutual respect and shared accountability – building blocks of a strong partnership.

What do you see as Volastra’s strengths when it comes to partnering?

Volastra has some incredible strengths for a company of its size. When I was considering joining, I was impressed at how easy it was to understand the company’s mission and goals. I knew this clear articulation of Volastra’s purpose and work would also be a real benefit to any potential partners who are trying to understand what we can bring to the table in a transaction. It’s rare to see an early company put such thought into conveying their science and ensuring nothing gets lost in translation. It shows we take seriously we take our mission to discover new medicines.

From a deal structure perspective, being an early-stage company empowers us with the unique flexibility to pursue many different paths and explore a variety of ways we can create value behind our science. But with this optionality, comes great responsibility; it is on us to be flexible and allow the values of our partners to also inform the deal structure.

What are you most excited to do at Volastra?

Starting something new and innovative is seen as a daunting task by many, but that’s never been my view. To me, new projects, ventures, and jobs are invigorating assignments that hold so much promise – you just have to be willing to work hard and bring a fresh perspective that allows you to see the full potential of an opportunity. Part of that means also being creative and looking beyond what’s right in front of you. It’s fortunate that I discovered the world of business development, where taking action and implementing the ideas and initiatives not only builds the business but can have a huge impact for helping patients.

Business development has been a great career for me, and I’m thrilled to be doing this type of work at Volastra. I am excited to bring what I know to the table and work together with my team to create value from our breakthrough science as the company grows and advances its scientific platform.

What’s the biggest lesson about partnering that you’ve learned in your career?

Experience can be a tough, but also an incredibly insightful, teacher. Over the course of my career in business development, I’ve come to realize that unlike M&A and licensing deals, partnerships are far more complex. A partnership is made up of two unique parties that come to the table with distinct values and capabilities, and it can be difficult at times to figure out how such different groups can best work together to create true value. The real secret is finding that personalized deal structure that results in two different teams together being able to achieve much more than the sum of their parts.  If we can do that, we can really impact patient care.

You can learn more about Rachel and the rest of our team here.