Phyllis Gardner


Phyllis Gardner’s life in two fast tracks

By David Schrieberg

To those of her colleagues who say she wants to have her cake and eat it too, Phyllis Gardner offers this answer:

“Who doesn’t?”

Gardner can afford a touch of conceit. She is in the unique position of carrying two business cards: associate professor of molecular pharmacology at Stanford University on one, vice president for research/principal scientist at Alza Corporation on the other. The jobs are as different as the titles. At Stanford, she has a lab, conducts research, teaches and does committee work. At Alza, a Palo Alto drug-maker, she travels around the world, supervises 160 people and administers a $22 million annual budget.

Gardner stands out ­ and not just for her 6-foot frame striding in jeans and black baseball jacket down the sober halls of Alza’s corporate headquarters. As Stanford looks for new ways to reach out to the industrial world, Gardner has built an unusual doorway between the executive conference room and the university laboratory. Despite a grueling schedule of 11-hour days and working weekends, she has happily put herself in the unique position of life in two fast lanes. “I love university life,” says Gardner, who, as the daughter of an agronomy professor, grew up on college campuses in the Midwest and South. Yet no one has been as surprised as she by her transformation to company executive. “I found I’m fascinated with the corporate world,” says the 47-year-old scientist. “It’s very innovative, dynamic, intellectually challenging. Now my problem is I love both worlds.”

Her ménage à trois is welcomed by Alza, where executives were surprised by Stanford’s willingness to try something so unconventional. For them, the timing could not have been better ­ they wanted to branch into new fields of drug delivery that were Gardner’s specialty. “We found that we really had shortage

Phyllis Gardner (Plain text)

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