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Tina Nova becomes San Diego Biotech Superstardom

Tina Nova used to get up at 5 a.m. to rake hay on her family’s farm when she was a kid. She now gets up early to head some of San Diego’s most powerful life science firms. Nova is a seasoned entrepreneur with a talent for solving complex challenges who has made a name for herself in the biotech field, which is largely controlled by men. She was a crucial figure in the development of the prostate specific antigen test, which is credited with reducing prostate cancer death rates by 30% in the 1990s.

She’s now gone on to head a string of successful biotech companies, selling them for hundreds of millions of dollars. Her track record has won her a lot of admiration. She was appointed the first female chair of Biocom, a California life science trade group that presently has 1,400 members, in 2002. She was named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in San Diego Life Sciences in 2007. Former California Governor Jerry Brown occasionally calls her to discuss “biotech stuff.”

Tina Nova, who now lives near Del Mar with her husband, began her trip in Delano, a little town about a half-hour north of Bakersfield, where she was born the oldest of four children in a close-knit Greek family. She and her sister got up at the crack of dawn every Saturday during the summer, hopped on a pair of tractors, and raked cut alfalfa into neat rows, leaving it to dry into hay. Nova’s grandparents, who were also her next-door neighbours, anticipated she’d settle down after high school and marry a Greek man they’d sponsored to immigrate to the United States. She, on the other hand, had different ideas.

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