Cues and Views: Propel Bio Partners Managing General Partner Leen Kawas, in brief

Home: Seattle, WA and Los Angeles, CA. Age: 36. Birthplace: Jordan. Profession: Entrepreneur, inventor and investor in the health care industry. Organization: Propel Bio Partners. Title: Managing General Partner. Pronouns: She/Her/Hers. Alma mater: Washington State University. Languages spoken: Arabic, English and some French.

Current project: Fund manager, looking for the next breakthrough in the life science industry. Latest contribution to others: Mentoring of startups and entrepreneurs. What’s been your big (or biggest leap)? I have launched Athira Pharma, co-invented the therapeutic pipeline including its lead drug, which is not in Phase III of clinical development for Alzheimer’s. I raised $400 million and took it public. To give some historical context, I immigrated to the US in 2008 with less than a $100. Hobbies: Swimming, walking and music. Recently viewed and recommended: My daughter watches ballet classes on YouTube. A good way for parents to have screen time as activity time, especially when it’s raining.


Personality profile: Decisive, intuitive, tenacious, with a growth mindset. What one word would your closest friend use to describe you? Inspiring. Moral compass: Treat people the way you want to be treated. Humanitarian. How do you define a perfect friendship? When people become comfortable with silence, continued bidirectional learning, comfort with seeking support when needed. How do you define an ideal business relationship? Based on respect and honesty, promoting growth and allowing for productive controversial discussion. What is your greatest joy? Seeing my children experience new things; watching an employee grow in skills or way of thinking. What is your guilty pleasure? Ice cream. What natural talent have you neglected? Cooking. What occupation, other than your own, do you most admire? Teaching and nursing. What is your favorite place (or way) to spend money? On new experiences. What is at the top of your bucket list? Improving the methods of how drugs are developed. How do you relieve stress? Walk and exercise. What is your go-to workout? Walking. What ingredient is essential to your perfect vacation? Good food.


What was your favorite college course? Pharmacokinetics. What book have you repeatedly read? The Days, by Taha Hussein. Besides your parents, who has had the greatest influence on your life? My husband. What’s the best advice you received growing up? Be yourself. What’s the best advice you received in your career? You only hear the glorious side of the entrepreneurial journey, but you will face a lot of highs and lows as an entrepreneur. Prepare yourself for the lows and if you can overcome them, you will be successful. What modern technology innovation do you most appreciate? Phone, emails and calendars. What personal circumstance has had the greatest influence on your life? Migrating to the US.


What is your big idea?

Precision and personalized clinical drug development. I think people only think of precision or personalized medicines but to truly get to that point, we need to develop methods and strategies to test them in a personalized and precise way.

What change are you working on to effect in your profession or field? Increased awareness of the need to advance and improve the ways in which drugs are tested, specifically for neurological indications. We are still using old methods developed in the ‘80s and not fully taking advantage of available technological advancements. What change would you like to see in the world? Real equity. What widely held belief do you reject? Following the standard way is the least risky way, or, following the norm is less risky. I think when you just become a “me too” you risk having an impact through innovation and pushing boundaries.


As a kid, what did you first want to be when you grew up? A drug developer. How would you choose to spend tomorrow, if you knew it was your last day on earth? With my family, park during the day, then dinner and a movie. What advice would you give your younger self? Trust your instincts.


Personal mission: To bring life changing therapies and technologies to patients and families who need it, in a novel and efficient way. To improve human health in a meaningful way. Personal motto: Don’t allow anything to stop you, keep moving forward.