Propel Bio Partners to Raise $150M for Life Science Startups

Leen Kawas, the Seattle biotech exec who resigned as CEO of Athira Pharma after an investigation found she experienced altered doctoral investigate images that assisted to kind the first foundation for the enterprise, re-emerged Friday as co-founder and managing normal partner of a new investment decision firm termed Propel Bio Partners LP.

Co-founded with Richard Kayne, a distinguished Los Angeles-based mostly asset supervisor who was an early Athira investor, Propel Bio Associates also has assist from numerous other Athira buyers. Among the them: John Fluke Jr., who remains on Athira’s board as the publicly traded organization pursues therapies for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disorder.


Propel Bio is looking for to elevate a pooled financial commitment fund of $150 million, in accordance to a filing Friday morning with the Securities and Trade Fee.

The expenditure firm’s team involves senior affiliate Dasom (Christine) Yoo, previous Fred Hutchinson Cancer Investigation Center company enhancement supervisor.

Propel claims it designs to devote in life sciences organizations at a variety of phases of improvement, trying to find “to help founders and administration groups satisfy the urgent mission to progress human overall health with disruptive therapies and technologies.”

The firm’s advisory board consists of Ronald Lee Krall, former GlaxoSmithKline chief professional medical officer and latest NIH Basis director, and other marketplace veterans.

“My involvement in Propel is a testament to my self-confidence in Leen,” Krall mentioned in a assertion. “I believe that she has the techniques and skill to support promising entrepreneurs commercialize groundbreaking new therapies and systems, and search forward to functioning with her and the rest of the workforce in our shared pursuit of advancing human wellbeing.”

Kawas, a Jordanian immigrant, was motivated to go after biomedical investigation after her grandmother died of most cancers.

“I am searching forward to delivering promising and passionate business owners the same option that Ric Kayne and other individuals gave to me when I begun Athira,” Kawas reported in a push release saying Propel’s development.

Kawas co-established Athira (initially M3 Biotechnology) in 2011. Named Startup CEO of the 12 months at the 2019 GeekWire Awards, she took Athira public in 2020, as the initial lady to lead a business to an IPO in Washington state in more than two a long time.

Shares of Athira fell by more than 50% in June 2021 immediately after Kawas was to begin with positioned on leave from Athira as concerns emerged about her research at Washington Point out University. Athira stock continues to trade at half its prior peak.

In conclusions unveiled in October 2021, a special committee of Athira’s board decided that Kawas altered pictures in her 2011 dissertation and at minimum 4 scientific investigation papers. On the other hand, the firm stated the papers made up of altered visuals had been not cited in its patent filing for its lead advancement applicant, ATH-1017.

Athira Pharma CEO Leen Kawas accepts the award for Startup CEO of the Year at the 2019 GeekWire Awards.

Athira Pharma CEO Leen Kawas accepts the award for Startup CEO of the Yr at the 2019 GeekWire Awards.GeekWire Image / Kevin Lisota

“I regret that issues I made as a graduate student lots of a long time in the past triggered any distraction to Athira today,” Kawas wrote in an internal memo at the time, received by GeekWire. “At the time, I was navigating an unfamiliar surroundings and did not fully comprehend the importance of my conclusion to greatly enhance the images I made use of in my study. I want to make apparent that the enhancement to photographs was not a change to or manipulation of the underlying info.”

The organization investigators concluded that Kawas had “altered” — not increased — the data-that contains images.

Papers with altered picture were cited in an previously patent accredited by the business from WSU. The university initiated an investigation into Kawas’ exploration in June 2021 but has however to announce any findings.

Editorial “expressions of concern” have been registered about the details in four scientific studies co-authored by Kawas, published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics in between 2011 and 2014. Editors of the journal have reported they are waiting around for WSU to finish its review.

GeekWire contacted WSU for comment Friday early morning. A spokesperson responded, “Washington Point out University does not remark on pending analysis misconduct steps and has no even further details to give at this time.”

The WSU spokesperson additional, “The university expects its researchers to adhere to the best moral expectations in their perform of exploration routines. WSU usually takes allegations of investigate misconduct really severely. The course of action is becoming carried out in accordance with the university’s Executive Coverage 33, which governs how the establishment responds to allegations of investigate misconduct.”

As a result of a spokesperson, Athira declined to remark in reaction to GeekWire’s inquiry about Propel Bio.

A consultant of Propel Bio claimed Kawas was not conducting interviews in conjunction with the announcement.

In statements coinciding with the Propel Bio launch, several of all those advising the company or investing in the new fund created it distinct that their involvement was an endorsement of Kawas as an entrepreneur, chief and scientist.

Fluke, the Athira board member, was effusive in response to GeekWire’s inquiry about his decision to invest.

“I am investing in Propel for the exact same motive I invested in Athira: I have the considerable tangible proof that Leen will direct Propel to detect and fund the most promising healthcare engineering enterprises that will, in convert, provide astounding improvements in human healthcare — and deliver regularly top-quality returns to investors,” Fluke reported by using e mail.

The involvement of early Athira buyers in Propel points to an undercurrent of dissatisfaction about the result of Kawas’ tenure as Athira CEO among her supporters, countered by a desire to see Athira reach its opportunity.

Mike Flynn Sr., former publisher of the Puget Sound Enterprise Journal in Seattle, summed up the sentiment in his Flynn’s Harp newsletter in October, detailing that he and other supporters of Kawas “have decided alongside one another not to increase a fuss with the organization lest any damaging expressions from these types of popular persons toward the Athira board have an adverse outcome on the enterprise or its progress.”

Kayne, the Propel co-founder and typical husband or wife, is a former Cantor Fitzgerald principal who launched Kayne Anderson Venture Associates. He said in the announcement that he’s very pleased to be partnering with Kawas in the new firm.

“Leen is a visionary entrepreneur with a special blend of push, intelligence and demonstrated enterprise acumen. In 6 brief years, she constructed a firm from the floor up, getting it by means of the early levels of drug growth, by means of its general public supplying and into the final levels of establishing its most likely match-changing treatment,” Kayne reported.

He added, “Under Leen’s management, I consider Propel is uniquely positioned to discover great options to aid entrepreneurs along the path to achievement.”

Approach and operations skilled Carol Criner, an early Athira trader who was launched to Kawas by Flynn, is 1 of 8 users of the Propel Bio healthcare and financial investment advisory board. Criner explained she also strategies to commit. In the course of the total journey, Criner stated, “I’ve only developed extra confident in Leen.”

In addition to Krall and Criner, other associates of the Propel Bio advisory board are:

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