Climbing the Ladder: From Athira Pharma to Propel Bio Partners with Dr. Leen Kawas

Dr. Leen Kawas spent a significant amount of time working as the CEO of Athira Pharma. During her years at the operation, Dr. Kawas helped to foster growth in the business while manifesting research that would lead to controlled clinical trials to treat both Dementia and Alzheimer’s. During her high-level work, Kawas would make a name for herself in the biotech field as a go-getting professional capable of crafting results.

In 2021, Dr. Leen Kawas would find herself in transition as she amicably departed from Athira Pharma/M3 Biotechnology. Helping to transform the Bothell-based business from its infancy phase into the publicly traded business it was at the time of her departure, Dr. Kawas was keen to keep her momentum going.

From Athira to Propel Bio Partners

A rising star in the field of biotechnology and a recent graduate from Washington State University, Kawas wouldn’t take long to find her way into the professional field. While working at the University of Pittsburgh, Kawas would be greeted with the opportunity to craft Athira. Juggling the idea, Kawas finally decided to leap into the fray and her company would soon blossom into the publicly traded biotech firm it is to this day.

In 2021, Athira Pharma and Dr. Leen Kawas would decide to mutually part ways due to a known issue in their shared past. Kawas said of this odd period in her life, “I don’t get stuck. I move forward. I remember the good days.”

Adding to the topic, Kawas decided early on that she wouldn’t hold any grudges against Athira. Kawas said, “If I look back and trivialize the whole experience with one event, it’s kind of sad.”

Dr. Leen Kawas would sit down for an interview with The Business Journal to discuss her departure as well as her plans for the future with Propel Bio Partners.

Making The Next Big Move

Having already fostered meteoric growth in one company, Leen Kawas was ready to do it again alongside partner and investor Richard Kayne. The global investor would come to Los Angeles to meet with Dr. Kawas so that the two could discuss their next big move. Dr. Kawas had only departed from Athira for half an hour when Kayne had begun to blow up her phone.

Kawas said of this period in her life, “I always wanted to have a bigger impact on our industry as well as the diverse aspect of leadership in our industry.”

After Kayne reached out about the subject of starting a new biotech company, Dr. Leen Kawas had to juggle the idea for a little while. Dr. Kawas said, “It took me five days to think about it.”

Kawas went on to say that her decision was final and firm, “I remember walking down and telling my husband, “I think there’s a new opportunity.”

Now, Dr. Kawa and Kayne are working on building a foundation by working directly with founders and other entrepreneurs throughout Los Angeles. This time, Kawas understands that she will be working as a true partner alongside Kayne. Kawas said that Kayne told her, “You’re not taking a job. You are a partner.”

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