M3 Biotechnology CEO Leen Kawas told a life-science sector governor’s panel that fledgling biotech companies need specialized spaces to grow, and a better collaboration between the state and the private sector, in order for biotech to move successfully toward its potential role as an economic engine for Washington.
Kawas, who has successfully guided her young biopharma company through its seed-round funding, was one of five CEOs invited to participate May 1 in what was described as a “panel of leading entrepreneurs in the health care and life sciences” for a conversation with Gov. Jay Inslee before an audience at the Cambria Grove.
The goal of the session was to offer Inslee, who was on hand to participate in the questioning of the CEOs, the opportunity to “listen to the community (of entrepreneurs) and discuss the challenges they face.”
In response to the governor’s first question to the panel to “explain in 60 seconds why you are based in Washington state,” Kawas explained that after early interest in attracting her to San Diego, “I found business and science leaders in Seattle who wanted to help us and we got funding here.”
Kawas shared with the governor and the audience her view that the burgeoning innovations in technology “are frequently creation of luxuries rather than needs,” biotech firms are seeking to change the future in ways that will alter people’s health and their lives.
“But to achieve that, we need to keep the talent we have in Washington and find ways to invite capital to come into the state,” she added.
Some of the discussion of the panel related to the Life Science Discovery Fund. Inslee requested the panelists to “help me convince the legislature” about supporting innovation, particularly the Life Science Discovery Fund, which supports innovative research in Washington state to promote life sciences competitiveness and enhance economic vitality.
Legislators have siphoned away much of what was tobacco-settlement money that was dedicated to support life-science innovations and the fund is now at risk of disappearing entirely.
Kawas explained emphatically that the nearly $1 million M3 has received from LSDF, including most recently a $500,000 matching grant that ensured an oversubscribed seed round, allowed the company not only to remain in Seattle rather than relocate to San Diego, but also to remain viable through what she called the “funding valley of death.”
Others on the unusual panel discussion with the governor were: Ron Myers of Nexgenia, Brandon Masterson of 2Morrow, Sailesh Chutani of Mobisante and Ingrid Swanson Pultz of PvP Biologics.
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