In 2023, the global biotechnology arena is overflowing with innovation. Drug development continues to be a major focus. In addition, biotech firms are driving solutions for agricultural, biofuel manufacturing, biodiversity breeding, and other challenges.
Leen Kawas is a biotech executive and investor and is currently Propel Bio Partners’ Managing General Partner. She offered insights into the biotechnology industry and highlighted an emerging infertility therapy.
Dr. Leen Kawas’ Perspective on the Biotechnology Industry
In 2023, Dr. Leen Kawas was featured on the AI Best Business Show. In response to the host’s query, she offered observations on the biotechnology industry’s current state. “The biotech industry is a big umbrella, where you could see a lot of innovation.
“The first thing you think about is therapeutics [or therapies] that you’re trying to advance. These may be biologics, proteins or antibodies, cell therapies, or small molecules. They may be traditional medicines.
The Overlap Between Technology and Biotechnology
“What is exciting right now in biotech is the overlap between technology and biotechnology. This is creating a lot of new opportunities in our life science and biotech industries. It’s the industry of advancing technologies that can help people live healthier and better lives. This is how I define it.
“Some people go into a much smaller definition or broader definition. It takes a lot of grit, it takes a lot of innovation, and it’s multidisciplinary. You need a lot of backgrounds to bring one therapy into the clinic and ultimately into the marketplace,” Dr. Leen Kawas declared.
3 Dynamic Biotechnology Industry Trends
The global biotechnology industry is collectively helping to enhance human health and quality of life. Research and manufacturing developments are frequently in the news, and new biotech startups are emerging onto the playing field.
, a respected biotech research and development firm, maintains a firm pulse in the biotech arena. On January 5, 2023, the company’s in-house industry experts issued their predictions for 2023 biotech industry trends.
Increased Need for Biomanufacturing Capabilities
Biological research is the foundation of biotechnology innovation. That said, biomanufacturing transforms the research results into real-world solutions. Currently, an industry-wide biomanufacturing backlog means patients frequently cannot access common drugs and/or life-saving disease therapies.
To further complicate the issue, manual recordkeeping is often an integral part of the biotech manufacturing cycle. This slows down the process and brings increased chances for error compared to a digital recordkeeping system.
Benchling estimates that shareable electronic records could potentially result in a 40 percent improvement in manufacturing time. Some innovative biotech companies have begun to implement this approach.
Technology Professionals’ Ongoing Migration to Biotech Firms
Dual factors have recently led over 150,000 technology professionals to leave their companies. Although some workers were the victims of layoffs, others sought more meaningful and/or challenging opportunities. The biotechnology industry’s intriguing software challenges and data projects have piqued many technologists’ interest.
Many of these highly skilled workers want to participate in programs with major real-world impact, and the biotech industry has plenty of them. For perspective, technologists accelerated the development of COVID-19 vaccines and made significant predictive artificial intelligence (or AI) advancements.
These very talented professionals also developed digital and cloud-based technologies along with data-driven analysis and problem-resolution methods. Multiple industries currently benefit from these discoveries. Naturally, the biotech industry is eager to hire high-achieving software engineers, machine learning (or ML) experts, and data scientists.
Growth of AI-Enabled Drug Discovery Programs
Most recently, AI-enabled drug discovery companies are achieving significant milestones or clinical trial readouts. In turn, this spurs more investment in the biotech arena. During the last 12 months, major pharmaceutical companies have collectively engaged in $20 billion of AI-linked drug discovery deals. Partnerships between pharmaceutical firms and AI experts have tripled during the past three years.
To achieve meaningful AI implementation, the biotech industry must recruit technology professionals with proven expertise in this evolving discipline. Biotech companies must also have a robust digital and data framework to serve as the foundation for AI programs. An optimal AI and ML strategy also requires wide-ranging access to top-tier, scaled-up data.
Dr. Leen Kawas Predicts AI Will Power Biotechnology Industry Expansion
In 2023, Dr. Leen Kawas was featured on the AI Best Business Show . She boldly predicted that AI would be a major catalyst for the biotechnology industry’s growth.
“I think we are at a moment where AI technology is going to be the biggest propeller of our industry. Both Inherent Biosciences and Persephone Biosciences and other companies that we’re looking at or have invested in are using AI because I think AI is going to enable the industry.
AI Enables Big Data Set Analysis
“Biology and drug development are rich in data. A lot of the time, we’re not able to take advantage of all of the levels of the information that we have because it gets overwhelming. With AI, you can integrate. For example, like Persephone, it’s multi-omics. They look at Trotiomics, they look at Metabolomics, they look at the microbiome, they look at genes, like DNA, RNA, everything.
“They look at proteins and they put out the AI model that they have developed. This describes a product that will lead to efficacy. Okay. Because you’re using more data to make that decision, you’re going to have better success rates moving forward.
AI Enables Clinical Development Advances
“Clinical development can benefit so much from AI. How can we define the control groups? How do we define global changes that we see in patients?
“I do think that AI i] going to be a big, big thing. Personalized medicine is going to be advanced because of our ability to use machine learning, and deep learning, in making a personalized decision on what type of treatment plan a patient might have. Personalized medicine benefits from AI and the ability to handle large data sets and make informed decisions]” Dr. Leen Kawas summarized.
Dr. Leen Kawas Details Inherent Biosciences’ Infertility Mission
As Propel Bio Partners’ Managing General Partner, Dr. Leen Kawas selects the biotechnology firms that will receive the company’s investment dollars and technical expertise. Dr. Kawas also serves on the board of Inherent Biosciences, an investment partner with a distinctive mission. She explained how Inherent is engaged in positively impacting infertility.
The Epigenetics of Humans
“Inherent is a commercial-stage company. They are working on a pipeline of diagnostic technology that looks at the epigenetics of humans. Epigenetics is the signature that sits on top of our DNA. We’re all born with our genes, and we’re all born with our specific DNA sequence.
“There are some mutations that can happen, but epigenetics is the dynamic signature on top of the DNA and could be methylation, or it could be different ways of epigenetic changes. What has been known recently is this: the way that our epigenetic is being modulated can impact health, can impact disease state, can impact fertility, and can impact aging.”
An Epigenetic Signature’s Impact on Fertility
Next, Dr. Leen Kawas delved into Inherent Biosciences’ infertility work. “What Inherent is initially focused on is infertility. They’re trying to revolutionize infertility. When a lot of people think about infertility, they think about the female partner. However, 30 percent of infertility goes unexplained.
“If you look at the traditional sperm testing for males, it’s typically motility size and speed. Those variables don’t predict and they do not correlate. Despite what people think, it doesn’t correlate with the success of pregnancy. Instead, they have built a lot of evidence to show that a specific epigenetic signature can have a very negative impact on success in pregnancy. Inherent Biosciences is trying to predict that and help people.
“I have friends who’ve been impacted by infertility, and it’s so hard. Thankfully, now they have children. However, if they had this technology to inform their fertility journey, they could have avoided a lot of pain, costs, and time. So, that’s why I’m excited about Inherent. This is the first product, but they have so many other products that are in the pipeline as well,” Dr. Leen Kawas remarked.
Changing the Epigenetic Signature is Possible
Dr. Leen Kawas emphasized that a couple can change a person’s epigenetic signature. “The epigenetic signature is something that you can change. If you have an epigenetic signature that is unhealthy and doesn’t help you with pregnancy, you actually can do lifestyle modification to help improve on that,” she noted. Although Inherent Biosciences can’t guarantee results, it’s a promising strategy worth consideration.
Propel Bio Partners’ Investment Philosophy
As Propel Bio Partners’ Managing General Partner, Dr. Leen Kawas integrates the firm’s investment philosophy in every funding decision . “At Propel Bio Partners, we are looking for a combination of transformative technology and great teams.
“When we look at a company, we unpack everything. In this market condition, we are only focused on companies that have real products that we can understand and have real data from it.
“We’re focused on the later stage, preclinical products that are approaching the clinical phase. The products are either at late-stage development in a non-clinical setup or early-stage clinical development.
Making Private and Public Investments
“We invest in both private and public companies. That’s the exciting thing for us because when you invest in both sides, you’re going to have a holistic view of the markets and the technology. You get insights from the private companies that could support your public strategy and vice versa,” Dr. Leen Kawas summarized.
Looking ahead, Dr. Leen Kawas acknowledged the biotech industry’s challenges while heralding the emerging opportunities . As an accomplished bioscientist and Propel Bio Partners’ Managing General Partner, Dr. Kawas looks forward to partnering with innovative firms poised to make their mark on the biotech landscape.