Dr. Leen Kawas, an experienced biotechnology executive and investor, recently offered insights into the industry’s innovations and emerging opportunities. As Propel Bio Partners’ Managing General Partner, Dr. Kawas selects and guides the firms receiving the company’s strategic investments.
In a 2023 broadcast, Dr. Kawas described the biotechnology field as a big umbrella encompassing therapeutics, digital solutions, and agriculture. She says the industry harnesses multidisciplinary teams and technologies to develop products that advance human health.
Benchling, a respected research and development firm, predicted three 2023 biotechnology trends. First, the industry needs expanded biomanufacturing capabilities. Biological research lays the groundwork for innovations, but biomanufacturing transforms ideas into real-world solutions. However, production bottlenecks and manual recordkeeping slow this sequence. Digital records could improve efficiency by 40%.
Second, over 150,000 technology professionals migrated to biotech companies last year. While some were laid off, others sought meaningful work. Biotech’s intriguing software challenges and data projects have attracted these skilled workers. Many want to contribute to high-impact initiatives like COVID-19 vaccines. The industry eagerly welcomes these talented software engineers, machine learning experts, and data scientists.
Third, AI-enabled drug discovery is achieving milestones, spurring additional investments. The past year, major pharmaceutical firms made $20 billion in AI drug discovery deals. Partnerships between pharma and AI companies have tripled in three years. Biotech companies need digital frameworks and top-tier data to optimize AI.
Dr. Kawas boldly predicts AI will propel biotech industry expansion. First, AI can analyze the large datasets central to biology and drug development. Using more inputs generates better efficacy predictions. Second, AI can refine clinical development. For example, it can objectively define control groups and elucidate global patient changes. Finally, AI facilitates personalized medicine by leveraging machine learning to make customized treatment decisions.
As Propel Bio Partners’ Managing General Partner, Dr. Kawas invests in firms like Inherent Biosciences, which tackles infertility through epigenetics. While DNA underpins genetics, epigenetics are environmental signatures influencing gene expression. Research shows epigenetics affect fertility, aging, and disease predisposition.
Inherent focuses on revolutionizing infertility diagnostics and care. Conventional sperm testing analyzes motility, size, and speed. However, these don’t predict pregnancy success. Inherent shows a specific epigenetic signature negatively impacts pregnancy. Their testing informs fertility journeys, saving clients time, money, and heartache. Beyond infertility, Inherent has pipelines leveraging epigenetics.
Significantly, lifestyle changes can beneficially modify epigenetic signatures. While Inherent can’t guarantee outcomes, their testing provides insights to enhance conception odds.
At Propel Bio Partners, Dr. Kawas targets firms with transformative technologies and strong teams. She focuses on later-stage preclinical products approaching clinical trials. The firm invests in private and public companies to fully understand overall markets and innovations.
Dr. Leen Kawas acknowledges biotechnology’s hurdles but remains excited by the vast opportunities to enhance human health and quality of life. She looks forward to guiding Propel Bio Partners’ investments toward the industry’s most promising prospects.