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.
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.