What do babies and startups have in common?
“When you think everything is perfect, the next day something happens,” said Leen Kawas, CEO and president of Seattle’s M3 Biotechnology — and a new mom. Perhaps the baby stops sleeping through the night, meaning no one is sleeping through the night. At the startup, well, who can count how many things can go sideways at any given moment.
But right now, all is well in motherhood and M3 Biotechnology, Kawas said. For that, she’s grateful.
Kawas has led the biotech company through two oversubscribed financing rounds, raising more than $20 million. This past fall, M3 Biotechnology launched its first clinical trial in humans to test its drug, called NDX-1017.
The drug could halt or reverse the nerve damage that causes Alzheimer’s disease and other illnesses including Parkinson’s and ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It uses regenerative technology, rebuilding connections between neurons and increasing the mass of the brain and brain health. It could possibly boost performance of healthy brains, Kawas said, but their focus is on treating disease.
M3 Biotechnology uses technology that Kawas developed while earning her Ph.D. in molecular pharmacology at Washington State University in 2011.
Academia “has its own culture and pace. It’s very horizontal. You’re not trying to achieve specific goals, you’re trying to explore,” Kawas said. She thinks that is changing to more applied uses. “I had an advisor who believed that science should be translated into tools that help people.”
There have been other challenges in making the shift to the corporate world. Some people were originally apprehensive about her academic-focused background, but after consistently meeting deadlines and budgets, their worries have dissipated. Kawas made the transition so well, she says, that “people don’t even call me doctor anymore.”
As a leader and for successes at M3 Biotechnology, Kawas serves on multiple science and Alzheimer’s-related boards and holds a doctor of pharmacy degree from the University of Jordan. M3 Biotechnology operates out of CoMotion Labs at the University of Washington
We caught up with Kawas for this week’s Working Geek feature. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire.
Current location: “Seattle”
Computer types: “Mac and PC”
Mobile devices: “iPhone, iPad and tablet. I don’t discriminate.”
Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: “Calendar and mail”
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? “Dynamic, efficient and functional. Lean and mean.”
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? Be efficient, prioritize, make decisions, move on quickly and optimize along the way. Find something you enjoy and you will have a natural balance between your work and life. Being an entrepreneur is a lifestyle and mindset, thinking too much about the balance won’t help. One advice: stay healthy and always try to find time to work out!”
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? “I use it for personal connections and networking. I use Facebook for sharing content about myself and the company, for Alzheimer’s disease education and outreach. For connecting with those who share similar interests professionally and personally.”
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? “Let’s not disclose!”
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? “46”
How do you run meetings? “Go in with a defined agenda and come out with defined action items and timelines.”
Everyday work uniform? “M3 Biotechnology t-shirt and blazer. It depends on what type of meetings I have that day.”
How do you make time for family? “Tough question! But I try setting devices on mute for dinner and dedicated down time with family. I am working on this point.”
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? “Music, swimming, dancing”
What are you listening to? “Right now, a Jeff Bezos interview on lessons on management. When relaxing, music from diverse cultures.”
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? “FierceBiotech, Wall Street Journal, CNN, BBC, Puget Sound Business Journal and GeekWire.”
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? “‘Tribe of Mentors’ by Timothy Ferriss.”
Night owl or early riser? “Both. I love the mornings, but occasionally will pull an all-nighter. Depends on what needs to get done!”
Where do you get your best ideas? “From the team. When I (we) face a challenge, I think this triggers a reaction to stretch yourself. The other extreme is when things are going very well and you can see opportunities more clearly.”
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? “I don’t know if I like complete emulation. I have been watching several people and reading about other entrepreneurs. I like to think I am creating my own style.”