In the ever-evolving biotechnology landscape, Leen Kawas, Ph.D., stands as a beacon of innovation and a relentless advocate for patient-centric drug development. Through her remarkable journey, from her roots as a pharmacist to her current role as the Managing General Partner at Propel Bio Partners, Leen Kawas has left an indelible mark on the industry.

Leen Kawas’ career has been a testament to the power of adaptability and seizing opportunities as they arise. Initially setting out as a pharmacist, her thirst for knowledge and desire to make a profound impact led her to pursue a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology. This pivotal decision paved the way for her to co-found Athira Pharma Inc., where she served as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) from 2014 until her departure.

During her tenure at Athira, Leen Kawas was pivotal in advancing multiple drug development programs and successfully navigating the company through its initial public offering in September 2020. Her leadership and vision garnered over $400 million in funding, propelling the company’s growth and underscoring her unwavering commitment to driving biotechnological advancements.

In 2022, Leen Kawas embarked on a new chapter, co-founding Propel Bio Partners alongside Richard Kane, a significant investor in Athira Pharma Inc. This strategic partnership allows Propel Bio Partners to provide essential financial and technical support to start-up and early-stage biotechnology companies, nurturing the next generation of groundbreaking innovations.

Beyond her exceptional business acumen, Leen Kawas is a vocal advocate for increasing diversity and patient involvement in clinical trials. In her view, practical clinical trials hinge on including diverse patient populations, reflecting the reality that “we are human, we are diverse.” By embracing diversity in clinical trial management teams and patient selection, Leen Kawas believes the industry can achieve more accurate and impactful outcomes, ultimately benefiting humanity.

Leen Kawas’ commitment to patient-centricity is not just a buzzword, it’s a guiding principle that she has lived by throughout her career. Years ago, she and her colleagues conducted patient feedback sessions to understand why certain drugs failed, with the goal of incorporating patients’ voices into clinical trial design and improving outcomes. This unwavering dedication to amplifying patient perspectives has been a hallmark of Leen Kawas’ approach, recognizing the invaluable insights that those directly affected by diseases can offer. Her commitment reassures us that the industry is focused on meeting human needs.

Leen Kawas’ aspirations for the next decade are not just ambitious; they are a testament to her unwavering belief in the power of biotechnology to transform lives. She envisions investing in companies that develop technologies to enhance human health, with a particular emphasis on global accessibility. Moreover, she hopes to provide internship opportunities for students and recent graduates from diverse backgrounds, nurturing the next generation of biotechnology pioneers. Her vision is a beacon of hope, inspiring us all to strive for a better future.

Leen Kawas’ journey is not just a story of professional success, but a deeply personal one. Her path was shaped by her grandmother’s battle with cancer, a poignant reminder of the real-world impact of biotechnology. From these humble beginnings as a pharmacist, Leen Kawas has risen to become an influential figure in the industry, leaving an indelible mark. Her unwavering advocacy for patient inclusion, diversity, and innovative drug development approaches serve as a beacon of hope for a future where biotechnology truly serves the needs of all humanity.

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