Entrepreneurship Has Grown On Biotechnology Firm’s CEO

By Rachel Lerman
The Seattle Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Thanks to the encouragement of her professor at WSU where she was working as a postdoctoral researcher in 2013, Leen Kawas decided to forgo a new research job and try her hand at the startup world. Today, “M3 Biotechnology” has 10 employees and recently closed a $12 million funding round.

SEATTLE

Leen Kawas was initially confused when her Ph.D. adviser at Washington State University suggested she help start a company focused on the research their team had been developing for the past several years.

Entrepreneurship, or any sort of startup work, wasn’t a career path when Kawas was growing up in Jordan. She always figured she would study at a university, then move into a stable job.

That’s what she was preparing to do while working as a postdoctoral researcher in 2013, when WSU professor Joe Harding came to her with the idea to commercialize the lab’s research on treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

“What do you mean?” she remembers asking Harding. Help build a team, he encouraged. Find investors, develop a drug that could reverse the effects of the degenerative disease.

Intrigued, but still unsure, Kawas called the University of Pittsburgh, where she was scheduled to begin a new research job. Her boss-to-be wholeheartedly encouraged her to try out the startup, excited by the possibility of what it could be. Why not put in a year, see how it goes?

It turned out well. Kawas was quickly promoted to become CEO of the new company. M3 Biotechnology now has 10 employees and recently closed a $12 million funding round.

The company is preparing to start a clinical trial for patients with Alzheimer’s this fall and has applied to the Food and Drug Administration for a fast-track approval process.

“It was the best decision ever,” Kawas, 31, said from her small office next to the company’s lab within the University of Washington’s CoMotion space, where research from the university is commercialized.

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