As the co-founder of Athira Pharma and the inventor of its leading drug candidate, ATH-1017, Dr. Leen Kawas has spent a significant portion of her career under the heady spotlight of public scrutiny. Now working with Propel Bio Partners after a successful stint at Athira, Dr. Leen Kawas has taken some time out of her busy schedule to explore the industry, share her past, and give insight to others looking to follow in her footsteps.
Let’s take a broader look at Dr. Kawas’ career to better understand her path to Propel Bio Partners.
Roaring Biotech Industry
The biotechnology sector is one of the largest and fastest-growing areas of science around. With renewed interest in potential life-saving drugs and other serious medical treatments, finding funding and generating progress has been part and parcel of Dr. Leen Kawas and her career.
Beginning in September 2020, Dr. Leen Kawas and the team at Athira helped to engineer several drug candidates that would reach an initial public offering. Kawas played a pivotal role throughout the process, evolving the path to her team’s success.
During her time at Athira, Kawas made sure to engage with her work but to also understand the struggles that would come with it. Dr. Kawas said of working in the biotech field, “It takes a lot of grit and a lot of resilience.”
Despite the roadblocks and hurdles in her way, Dr. Kawas’ would help Athira to generate more than $400 million en route to its IPO. During this time, Dr. Kawas was recognized by GeekWire and Business Insider as one of the Top 22 Female CEOs and Founders in February 2021.
Focusing on New Scientific Outreach
After spending a significant portion of her career with the team at Athira, Dr. Leen Kawas would decide to depart from Athira in order to pursue new ventures. Prior to leaving, Joe Harding of Athira stated of Kawas that her work was “impeccable” and that she should not be judged for “student-era mistakes”.
After departing from Athira, Dr. Kawas found herself establishing Propel Bio Partners LLC alongside Richard Kayne, a former investor at Athira. Now the Managing General Partner for the global venture, Dr. Kawas, and her team are targeting life science investments as they seek to foster growth in that sphere.
Dr. Kawas said of her new role and her new goal, “I always wanted to have a bigger impact on our industry as well as the diversity aspect of leadership in our industry.”
After departing from Athira, Richard Kayne would contact Dr. Kawas within a day. The duo would get started and, before long, Dr. Kawas was moving to Los Angeles to work on her upstart: Propel Bio Partners. Dr. Kawas said, “It became very clear to me and my husband that for my next adventure, LA makes a lot of sense.”