Leen Kawas Advocates for Patient-Centric Drug Development


Dr. Leen Kawas believes the time has come to rethink the traditional drug development model. As Managing General Partner at Propel Bio Partners, Dr. Kawas mentors biotech entrepreneurs in improving the process. She believes successfully developing new therapies requires placing the patient experience front and center.

The current U.S. system involves extensive testing before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gives green light to a new medication. However, patients have little input until Phase 3 trials when possible side effects come to light. Dr. Kawas insists integrating patient priorities and preferences is vital to creating patient-centric therapies.

Propel Bio Partners: Investing in Next-Gen Drug Development

At Propel, Dr. Kawas guides partners on best practices in patient-focused development. With her leadership, portfolio companies build meaningful patient engagement into trials. The goal is smoother enrollment, better-informed consent processes, and increased retention. By listening to patients, developers also gain insights facilitating the approval process.

Experiences as Athira Pharma CEO shaped Dr. Kawas’s approach. At Athira, patient satisfaction metrics helped drive value and funding. This principle now underpins Dr. Kawas’s work at Propel. She asks partners tough questions about incorporating patient voices and responding to patient-derived data.

Why Patient Perspectives Matter

Dr. Kawas notes today’s e-health environment empowers patients to become highly informed, engaged advocates. They increasingly use credible medical resources and real-world usage reports when evaluating treatment options. However, they have traditionally lacked avenues to directly convey priorities, preferences, and risk tolerances to developers.

The FDA established its Patient-Focused Drug Development initiative to address this gap. The agency now urges collecting patient perspectives to:

  • Streamline burdensome trial enrollment processes
  • Enable informed decision-making around treatment risks/benefits
  • Gather data on patient preferences and risk tolerance thresholds
  • Develop structured patient feedback mechanisms

Dr. Kawas sees tremendous value in applying these goals to clinical research. Patients can provide concrete suggestions to overcome enrollment barriers related to work schedules, transportation issues, unclear legal language, etc. Their input also allows tailoring dosing, packaging, labeling, and instructions to patient lifestyles for optimal adherence.

Furthermore, Dr. Kawas notes today’s tech-savvy patients actively share experiences on social platforms, forums, and advocacy groups. Tapping into this collective knowledge offers rich insights for enhancing future drugs. Forward-looking developers also foster closed patient group channels to spur sincerity and creativity.

The Future of Patient-Centric Drug Development

Given Dr. Kawas’s hands-on guidance, Propel Bio Partners’ portfolio ventures lead the way in patient-inclusive trials. With patients involved from the start, they build therapies to answer real-world patient needs. Dr. Kawas expects more pharma leaders to follow as patient groups demand a more significant say. She firmly believes putting patients first drives funding, enrollment, adherence, and approvals. Most importantly, it accelerates access to life-changing therapies for those waiting.

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