As a kid growing up in Loveland, Tina Larson (then Marriott) wanted to cure cancer from the first time she saw “Medicine Man.” She never made it to the Amazon like Sean Connery in the movie, but the CSU Chemical and Biological Engineering alumna is definitely earning star power in the biotechnology field.
On October 3, the Colorado State University Alumni Association will present the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering alumna with the 2019 University Distinguished Alumni Award. The annual celebration is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3 at the Lory Student Center.
It’s not the only major award she has received this year.
In 2019, Utah Business magazine named her one of “30 Women to Watch” as Chief Operating Officer of Recursion, a tech-first biopharma company that Fast Company dubbed one of the “World’s Most Innovative Companies” the same year. Larson is also a finalist for Utah’s Women Tech Council Awards, which will be presented this fall. And she is executive champion of Recursion’s quarterly “Women in Science and Technology” event series which regularly draws 100-plus person crowds.
Larson describes Recursion as a technology firm that is pioneering the application of machine learning and automation to understand biology and discover new medicines. She is one of two women at the executive level of the Salt Lake City company where 400,000 weekly experiments continually expand the world’s largest dataset of biological images.
College research helped career
Larson began her career at Genentech as an associate engineer of automation engineering – a job she earned because of meaningful, graduate laboratory work as a CSU undergraduate. For two years, she worked with James Linden on anti-cancer compounds in plant cells and developed sustainable pesticide alternatives for potato plants. “They were both relevant applications and scientifically rigorous projects,” Larson said.
She also credits her advisor, Emeritus Professor Vince Murphy, for delivering a chemical engineering education on par with the best universities in the country. Of Murphy, she said, “Someone at his level invested so much in undergraduate education. That doesn’t happen everywhere.”
Her father, a CSU Electrical and Computer Engineering alumnus, inspired her because he loved his work at HP. She also credits her Thompson Valley High School chemistry teacher with cementing her determination to be a scientist. And her mom for being a role model of hard work and service to others.
Larson spent 20 years at Genentech (acquired by Roche) where she moved up the ranks to Global Head of Technical Development Business Operations, overseeing business operations in Switzerland, Germany and the United States for an organization of 2,500 people. She received national recognition as a Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association Rising Star in 2012.
A rising star
In 2016, she was recruited to Achaogen, a biopharmaceutical company that discovered and commercialized ZEMDRI for infectious disease, where she served at Senior Vice President of Technical Operations before joining Recursion in 2018.
Maybe not the Amazon, but definitely a dream come true. “Science is fun,” said Larson, who still shares her passion with CSU as a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board in the college. “And it is a way to create something really impactful.”
For those interested in following Tina’s progress at Recursion and beyond, she is, she said with a chuckle, “looking for more followers” on Twitter at @TinaMarrLarson. Read more about the CSU Distinguished Alumni Awards and register for the October 3 event.