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Former Athira CEO on her controversial exit: 'I was relieved that it came to an end'

Leen Kawas doesn’t worry about what she can’t control.

She was a rising star in the biotech scene in 2014 when she became CEO of what was then known as M3 Biotechnology. Kawas helped transform the Seattle-area company from a research-born startup to a publicly traded biotech conducting clinical trials on drugs aimed at Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s dementia.

In June 2021, however, Athira Pharma Inc. (Nasdaq: ATHA) placed Kawas on temporary leave due to altered images in her doctoral work at Washington State University, where she received a doctorate in molecular pharmacology in 2011. Although the research team had addressed those issues in 2015, Athira announced Kawas’ resignation in October 2021.


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