Image by Karim Ghantous


Dr. Kawas is a co-founder of Athira Pharma and a co-inventor of its lead drug candidate ATH-1017. She also invented several of the innovative drug candidates in Athira’s pipeline.

Dr. Kawas served as Athira’s chief executive officer and president, and as a member of its board of directors from January 2014-2021. In this role, she led the technological and financial growth of Athira, raising around $400M and taking the company through its public offering. According to Business Insider and GeekWire, Dr. Kawas was one of only 22 female founders and CEOs to lead their company to an IPO, as of February 2021, and was the first woman to guide a company through an IPO in Washington State in over 20 years (at the time of Athira’s IPO in September 2020).

Awards & Recognitions

Dr. Kawas won many awards and recognitions for her leadership and accomplishments at Athira, including:  

  • Endpoints 20(+1) under 40 (2021)

  • Life Science Entrepreneurial Achievement Award (2020)

  • French-American Foundation Leader (2019)

  • Alzheimer’s Cure Coin Award (2019)

  • Biospace 7 Millennial Influencers in Biotech (2019)

  • GeekWire Startup CEO of the Year (2019)

  • CEOs 40 & Under in Life Science Leader (2017)

  • PharmaVOICE 100 honoree (2017)

  • Association of Washington Business Entrepreneur of the Year (2016)

  • EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women (2016)

  • Puget Sound Business Journal 40 under 40 award (2016)

  • EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalist (2016)

  • GeekWire Young Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist (2016)

She was named one of Seattle’s Most Influential People by Seattle Magazine (2015) and one of the Women to Watch in Life Sciences by the Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association (2015). As a company, Athira was also named as a finalist for Health Innovation of the Year (2019) and one of Seattle’s 10 hottest startups (2016), both by GeekWire, under Dr. Kawas’ leadership.


Dr. Kawas serves on multiple boards, including the Life Science Washington Board, the Scientific Review Board for the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, and Alzheimer’s Association‘s Washington Chapter Board. She previously served as the co-chair of the International Alzheimer's Association Business Consortium and was on the Washington Governor’s Life Science Advisory Board. She is also part of the Springboard Network.

Dr. Kawas is a passionate supporter of scientist entrepreneurs, in particular, women. She enjoys traveling, learning about new cultures and cooking! Dr. Kawas and her husband live in Washington with their two children.