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Personnel File - December 2007: Women Executives

Kay Wagoner, President and CEO
Icagen Inc., Durham

In the 14 years since starting Icagen, Kay Wagoner, 58, has seen more ups and downs than Keith Richards’ blood-alcohol level. In the early ’90s, she was the first woman CEO of a Triangle biotech — which took more than a decade to go public. This year, a promising drug for sickle-cell disease failed clinical trials and a pact with Bristol-Myers Squibb to develop a heart drug fizzled. In October, Icagen stock was trading for less than $2. Here’s what she has to say about dealing with adversity:

“You have to learn how to bounce back quickly and get up every day with a renewed enthusiasm. You have to celebrate your successes quickly because there may be failures coming on the heels of those. You have to laugh a lot and make people around you laugh.”

“It takes a certain kind of person to tolerate the highs and the lows. I’ve learned a lot about that in the last 14 years and have gotten better at it.”

“Some balance in your life is important, too. I exercise a lot. And I have the most wonderful husband—we’ve been married 40 years.”