A transformative change is coming to the life-science industry. Impactful inventions are not only changing lives but the world. Dr. Leen Kawas, a life sciences industry expert, recently stated, “How great it is to be part of an industry where the impact is tangible? With proper support, small companies today can deliver the high-impact therapies and technologies of tomorrow. Their success, in turn, will fuel future innovations, creating a healthy ecosystem for patients, caregivers, inventors, entrepreneurs, regulators, and investors.”
Dr. Leen Kawas is a co-founder of Propel Bio Partners, a group of industry leaders and scientists who see a growing and exciting world on the horizon for the life sciences industry. Their goal is to identify innovative life science companies and support them. As such, they are one of the most reliable sources on what is coming in the future for their industry.
Dr. Kawas is applying her significant experience to support entrepreneurs and companies. She was a co-founder and CEO of Athira Pharma (2014-2021), during which time she grew the company from 1 person (herself) to a publicly traded company in 2020. She co-invented the lead clinical candidate Fosgonimeton (ATH-1017) and several other clinical assets. Importantly, she worked closely with the team and pioneered a strategic outsourcing model that enabled high-quality and patient-centric research, solving a common challenge faced by small companies with limited resources. The focus on quality and addressing patients’ needs made the team ask many “whys”, which led to several transformative changes that challenged the industry status quos for better and more efficient research, with a small and focused team.
Dr. Kawas believes that we are on the cusp of transformational times for our industry. Knowledge is accessible, biotech is driving a significant portion of our innovative ecosystem. We are starting to leverage technology and are seeing significant advancement in clinical methodologies and data science. Take Genentech for example, it was founded by the then 29-year-old, Robert A. Swanson, who was able to accomplish what large Pharma was not able to do, making synthetic human insulin in laboratories from bacteria. The Genentech endeavor not only created a viable product addressing an urgent unmet medical need that delivered high-quality insulin at a lower cost but also set new trends in the industry. Dr. Kawas believes that small and innovative life sciences companies, with the proper support, will be the driving force of medical innovations – several of them will lead to industry transformations along the way.
The Forces Driving the Future
The shifts in mindset from new generations of business leaders have broken the norms of the industry and built disruptive solutions that accelerate high-impact innovation. Dr. Kawas explained that with this powerful shift in mindset, the driving forces gripping the life sciences world will lead to a boom in innovations to improve patients’ lives.
First, advancement in scientific understanding. In the past decade, breakthroughs in basic biological research, drug design, and clinical research have yielded a better understanding of the causes of disease and pathways to modify the disease processes, resulting in more effective drug development strategies.
Second, maturation in the area of computational and data science including machine learning and artificial intelligence. The advancement in data science and integration with biology allows researchers and innovators to learn from a large amount of data, better collaborate and share their knowledge from all around the world. This has led to a greater understanding of drug effects in the complex biological systems. Essentially, therapeutics are designed with precision or even personalized, and they are becoming more effective and safer.
Third, innovative business models and operational strategies. Small companies with lean and focused teams now have a large reach of resources that enables them to expand on capacity and quality without having to build big infrastructures in-house. They can leverage a network of specialized vendors to create a purpose-built corporate structure. “All clinical programs will inevitably encounter challenges. As such, a streamlined solution-making process for swift resolution is essential. Business and operational models should be able to rapidly identify roadblocks and navigate around them efficiently and quickly.”
Fourth, a global shift in regulations that embrace innovation. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) review and approve many of the world’s pharmaceutical products before they enter the marketplace, and they’ve made leaps in optimizing the drug review and approval process, establishing proactive dialogues with companies that encourage the adoption of innovative methodologies and data science to enable efficient drug development. Drugs can now be evaluated more efficiently than ever before and are being approved with more confidence.
“There is more resource and opportunity available in this industry than there has ever been,” Dr. Kawas says, “This is the perfect time for innovators to step up and bring about a significant impact on human health.” If you are not yet convinced, the first wave has arrived. In 2021, FDA approved 50 new drugs, some in record time. The pace of innovation will continue to accelerate as the driving forces continue to grow and coverage.
Dr. Leen Kawas and the Propel Bio team are helping life sciences companies take advantage of the optimal time we’re in, so they can advance their therapies and positively impact human health worldwide. The vision of Propel is to support entrepreneurs with capital alongside a supportive ecosystem of experts, advisors, and service providers to back businesses with a focus on patient centricity, efficiency, and data quality.
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