A CFO Makes a Meaningful Impact

Julie Feder, CFO of Aura Biosciences (fourth from left), rings Nasdaq’s closing bell with Elisabet de los Pinos, Aura’s CEO (center).

When it comes to “wow” moments in the world of business, participating in the closing bell ceremony at the Nasdaq Stock Exchange ranks high among career highlights. To paraphrase Nelson Griggs, president of the Exchange, it doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned CEO or a guest of the company, the moment you see yourself on Nasdaq’s big screen in Times Square is one of excitement and achievement.

Julia Feder ’92SB, CFO of Aura Biosciences

Julie Feder ’92 SB, chief financial officer of Aura Biosciences, couldn’t agree more. On June 2 of this year, she, along with the company’s CEO Elisabet de los Pinos and its executive team, experienced their moment of wow as they rang the iconic closing bell, signaling the end of the Nasdaq trading session. Months earlier, in October 2021, they had made even bigger history when Aura Biosciences announced its initial public offering (IPO), which raised gross proceeds of $87 million in equity capital. As CFO, Feder played a critical role in taking the company public, first by working with her CEO to sell the IPO story to prospective investors and then by navigating the many massive operational challenges that make an IPO a complex undertaking of meeting regulatory, reporting, governance and audit standards. “I’m in finance,” notes Feder “and my job is to make sure that Aura has the money to do what they have to do. But the fact that Aura is developing applications for a novel technology that will change peoples’ lives for the better gives my work an inspiring dimension that goes well beyond finance.”

For CFOs like Julie Feder looking to make a meaningful impact, Aura Biosciences is the place to be. Founded in 2011 and located in Boston, Massachusetts, this pioneering, clinical-stage biotech is developing a new class of drug therapies to target and destroy cancer cells selectively. Aura’s lead drug therapy candidate, belzupacap sarotalocan, is currently in Phase 2 development for the first-line treatment of a rare ocular cancer for which the current standard of care is radiation therapy, resulting in major vision loss, or removal of the eye. Future pipeline applications for Aura’s technology include treatments for non-muscle invasive bladder cancer, which in June 2022 received Fast Track Designation from the FDA.

A “finance person who loves to talk about science,” Feder is no stranger to the brave new world of biotech and has a powerhouse resume to prove it. As an accounting major, straight out of the Sy Syms School of Business, she landed a position at Deloitte. Among her clients was Genzyme, one of the world’s largest biotech companies, which she eventually joined as vice president of internal audit. While there she came under the mentoring eye of the company’s CFO Mike Wyzga, who provided strategic leadership in the company’s $20.1 billion sale to Sanofi, the second-largest acquisition in biotech history.

Encouraged by her mentor to “seek leadership opportunities in finance,” Feder found them as CFO for the Clinton Health Access Initiative, where she was responsible for the overall global financial strategy. Her next stop was Verastem Oncology and from there Aura Biosciences, establishing her membership in an exclusive club: women CFOs.

“I know opportunities do exist for women, and I have been very fortunate in my career to have them, but I think women should continue to break through those glass ceilings and rise,” says Feder as she points to the fact that she is the second half of a partnership rarely seen in the biotech industry – a female CEO-CFO duo, a partnership made even more unusual by the uncommon position Feder holds as a Modern Orthodox woman in the corporate world. In addition to her role as CFO of Aura, she is also the Co-Chair of the Board of Directors at the Maimonides School, a coeducational, Modern Orthodox, Jewish day school founded by Rabbi Dr. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, located in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Feder, an involved mother of three who has celebrated 29 years of marriage with her husband Wayne, recognizes the example she sets for young Modern Orthodox women seeking leadership positions and careers in business, including her daughter, Leah Feder ’19 SB, a successful marketing associate at a software company. “The day we participated in Nasdaq’s closing bell ceremony was also the day I wanted to be a visible example to young women, especially in the Orthodox community, that success in secular business is doable,” remarked Feder. “As an Orthodox woman, so much of my life is my religious Torah life and that is always at the forefront of what I do, and it is something I am always proud of.”

But that’s not the only piece of advice she offers to young women as well as men looking to rise to positions of financial leadership where they may experience their own “wow moment.” “Never assume you’re the smartest person in the room and be sure to surround yourself with the best and brightest because you are only as successful as the people around you.”