We help entrepreneurial life science companies advance the groundbreaking technologies and therapies that improve human health.

Investing With Intention

Investing With Intention

We are a global equity investment firm steeped in science and business expertise.

Support With an Ecosystem

Support With an Ecosystem

We provide an entire ecosystem of experts including medical, commercial, financial, and investment advisors.

We are a team that has a successful track record at every stage of product, financial, and corporate growth and development.

People With a Purpose

People With a Purpose

We help founders fulfill the urgent mission to advance human health with disruptive therapies and technologies.

Our People

Medical and Investment Advisory Board

Propel Bio Partners builds ecosystems to help founders achieve their vision.

Send Us a Message



Propel Bio Partners LLC
1800 Avenue of the Stars
Los Angeles, CA 90067



General Partner

Richard Kayne is a successful investor, entrepreneur, inventor, and strategist who brings a rich history of experience and expertise to his role as Partner of Propel Bio Partners. He currently serves as the founder and co-chairman of Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors, an alternative asset manager with $34 billion in assets under management. He was also founder of Kayne Anderson Rudnick, a traditional investment management firm that he grew to over $10 billion in assets under management before selling it in 2001. Today, the firm has about $80 billion in assets under management.

Mr. Kayne’s accomplishments are primarily due to his practice of fostering successful partnerships, building extensive networks, and maintaining knowledge and sourcing advantages.

He is the former chairman and current trustee of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) Foundation and is the former co-chairman and current trustee of the investment committee of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles.

Mr. Kayne began his career in the mid-1960s as an analyst with Loeb, Rhodes & Co. in New York and was a principal of Cantor Fitzgerald & Co., Inc., where he managed private accounts, a hedge fund, and a portion of the firm’s capital.

Mr. Kayne earned a BS in statistics from Stanford University in 1966 and an MBA from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1968.



Managing General Partner

Dr. Kawas brings her deep expertise to the fund, helping to assess life sciences opportunities by drawing on her experiences in drug discovery, operation, clinical trial methodologies, regulatory strategies, commercialization, and financing. These skills were instrumental to her success as the former CEO of Athira Pharma as well as her ability to raise about $400 million and lead the company through an IPO. They will continue to serve her well in her role as Managing General Partner for Propel Bio Partners.

Dr. Kawas has won many awards and recognitions for her leadership and accomplishments including: Endpoints 20(+1) under 40 (2021), Life Science Entrepreneurial Achievement Award (2020), French-American Foundation Leader (2019), Alzheimer’s Cure Coin Award (2019), Biospace 7 Millennial Influencers in the Biotech Industry (2019), GeekWire Startup CEO of the Year (2019), 40 under 40 in Life Science Leader (2017), PharmaVOICE 100 honoree (2017), Association of Washington Business Entrepreneur of the Year Award (2016), EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women (2016), Puget Sound Business Journal 40 under 40 Award (2016), EY Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist (2016), and GeekWire Young Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist (2016). She was named one of Seattle’s Most Influential People by Seattle Magazine and one of the Women to Watch in Life Sciences by the Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association in 2015.

Dr. Kawas serves on multiple boards, including the Life Science Washington Board, the Scientific Review Board for the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, and the Alzheimer’s Association‘s Washington Chapter Board. She also served as the co-chair of the International Alzheimer’s Association Business Consortium and was on the Washington Governor’s Life Science Advisory Board. She is also part of the Springboard Network and is a passionate supporter of scientist entrepreneurs, in particular women.




Dr. Yoo earned her PhD in bioengineering from the University of Washington, where she worked on stem cell therapy for heart regeneration. Before joining Propel Bio Partners, Dr. Yoo served as Business Development Manager at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where she helped advance research programs into clinical development, connecting innovations with commercial partners.




Dr. Gonzalez-Leon earned his PhD in biomedical engineering from the University of California, Irvine. There, his research focused on increasing the functional properties of self-assembled articular cartilage and knee meniscus tissue toward their implantation in a large-animal model. Dr. Gonzalez-Leon was also a Research Transfer Group Fellow at Beall Applied Innovation where he evaluated engineering & scientific inventions from UC Irvine through technical assessment, patentability assessment, market research, and prior art searches.

Arnav Jolly



Arnav Jolly is a graduate of the University of Washington, where he majored in bioengineering and data science with a minor in entrepreneurship. He will be pursuing further education in bioengineering, including bioinformatics and machine learning at Columbia University. Mr. Jolly has created products for numerous industries—from biotechnology to board games—and has six years of consulting experience for various companies as well. Arnav has also received numerous awards for his work in financial consulting and personal finance through various competitions.

Caleb Sklena



Caleb Sklena is completing his senior year at Rhodes College, where he has been majoring in history and pre-law studies with a minor in English. He plans to attend law school to pursue intellectual property law. In the meantime, Mr. Sklena will serve as administrative assistant for Propel Bio Partners where he can draw on his previous experience in client relations.

Jim Harding



Jim Harding is a Certified Public Accountant and Certified Management Accountant. He spent nine years with Johnson & Johnson primarily supporting the pharmaceutical and medical device businesses, before leaving to start his own accounting firm. He is passionate about helping entrepreneurs build and grow their businesses. His experience working with businesses both large and small brings a unique perspective to Propel Bio Partners. Jim also enjoys teaching and is currently an adjunct instructor of accounting and finance at Jefferson (Philadelphia) University.

Ron Farkas, MD, PhD


Senior Advisor

In addition to serving as Senior Advisor on the Medical and Investment Advisory Board for Propel Bio Partners, Ron Farkas is Chief Medical Officer for Apnimed, a clinical-stage pharmaceutical company. Prior to joining Apnimed, Dr. Farkas was Vice President, Technical, at PAREXEL consulting, and served as a key advisor to Apnimed during its founding. At PAREXEL, he was a regulatory and R&D consultant working across all stages of drug development, including pre-startup and key regulatory meetings, FDA Advisory Committee meetings, labelling negotiations, and approval. Prior to this appointment, he was at the US FDA for more than 10 years, serving in several roles, including Clinical Team Leader of drug development for obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep disorders. There, he was the principal contributing author of multiple FDA Guidance documents, including the Guidance on evaluating the effects of drugs and sleep disorders on the ability to operate motor vehicles.

Dr. Farkas was the recipient of numerous FDA awards for his work on evaluating the safety and efficacy of drugs for sleep disorders, including a Leadership Excellence Award for methods to evaluate dose response in the treatment of sleep disorders. He also regularly represented FDA policy to industry, academia, and other governmental agencies on issues ranging from the effects of genetic polymorphisms on drug safety to FDA Breakthrough Designation. Prior to joining the FDA, he was an Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins Wilmer Ophthalmic Institute. Dr. Farkas received his Medical and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in neuroscience from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Sylvia McBrinn, MBA


Senior Advisor

Propel Bio Partners Senior Advisor Sylvia McBrinn is also a strategic Board Director, CEO, and commercialization expert with 30+ years of leadership experience in the biopharmaceutical industry. With a strong commercial background in US and global markets, she has led successful launches of specialty to blockbuster products and grown market share for companies including Pfizer and Vernalis. She provides biopharmaceutical companies critical insights from a career of executive governance, operational, and commercial success across a wide range of therapeutic areas including neurology, inflammation and rheumatology, pain, infectious disease/microbiome, and urology.

Currently, she serves and advises BioAtla (Nasdaq: BCAB) as Board Director, Compensation Committee Chair, and Audit Committee member, and as a Board Director of Ilya Pharma (private). Until recently, she led as Board Director/founding CEO of early-stage biotech company Axerion Therapeutics (now ReNetX Bio), and also built and led the US subsidiary of a British biotech, Vernalis, with full P&L oversight. Earlier, she was an EVP and GM of Andrx with full P&L responsibility, overseeing branded products with 400 employees across key business functions. Throughout her career and board roles, she has earned a reputation of a strategic thinker with the ability to connect the dots and ask insightful questions between business direction, portfolio strategy, R&D, marketing, and commercialization.

As Global VP of Marketing at Pfizer, Ms. McBrinn led the launch and commercialization of the blockbuster product Bextra—the #1 Product launch in the US that year—achieving $1B in sales in the first 12 months and exceeding forecast by 35%. Additionally, she built the #1 Parkinson’s disease product franchise globally, exceeding forecast by 40%. At Vernalis, she in-licensed and relaunched Apokyn, an injectable Parkinson’s product that increased sales 42% YOY.

Ms. McBrinn is a passionate supporter of women, innovators, and entrepreneurs in business. In addition to Board service, she guides and mentors entrepreneurial women with their pitches and strategies as a member of Springboard Enterprises Life Science Council to accelerate growth of entrepreneurial, women-led companies. She also serves as a “sounding board” for Yale innovators contemplating a startup, as Entrepreneur in Residence at the Yale University Office of Cooperative Research.



Senior Advisor

A Senior Advisor on the Medical and Investment Advisory Board, Mike Gibbs has a long history of executive leadership with deep experience in commercializing new products within the biopharmaceuticals sector. He is recognized as a brand troubleshooter and catalyst for creating innovative development and commercialization strategies across product life cycles.

He is currently Managing Partner and Principal Consultant for Eyecatcher BioPharma, a product development and commercialization consulting company. There, he uncovers critical insights to ensure clinical studies demonstrate meaningful differentiation and value and that phase 3 programs are optimally designed for successful commercialization. Specifically, he ensures that programs guide cross-functional development and commercial teams all along the patient journey, building in critical insights from healthcare professionals and payors along the way. His clients have included senior leadership teams of several biotech companies, including Athira Pharma, Neumora, Nabriva Therapeutics, Alairion Inc., and Ondosis.

Mr. Gibbs is the recipient of several leadership awards, including a Senior Executive Team Award for his work in delivering pre-launch education and awareness programs for a major launch brand and a CEO Award for his work in structuring a major pharma collaboration in the Alzheimer’s disease space.

Mr. Gibbs has held US and global leadership roles at leading biopharmaceutical companies, including Sanofi, formerly Aventis, and AstraZeneca (AZ) where he served as Vice President of Global Marketing. During his tenure at AZ, he led infection and neuroscience therapeutic areas within Global Marketing and held P&L responsibility for a $1.5 billion US oncology franchise. He gained extensive partnering experience and success working with both biotech and peer pharma, securing over $350 million in licensing investments and building a portfolio with a projected annual revenue of more than $5 billion.

Born in London, Mike earned a BSc in biochemistry from the University of Sheffield, UK, and a postgraduate diploma in marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing, also in the UK.

Ronald Lee Krall, MD


Senior Advisor

Dr. Krall, appointed Senior Advisor for Propel Bio Partners, is also an Adjunct Professor of Neurology at the University of Rochester and Adjunct Associate Professor of Neurology and Member of the Center for Bioethics and Health Law at the University of Pittsburgh. He is Chairman of the Board of Pierian Biosciences, a member of the Board of the National Institutes of Health and an independent member of the Safety Board of Takeda Pharmaceuticals. He is former Chief Medical Officer for GlaxoSmithKline (retired), working for 4 companies (Lorex Pharmaceuticals, Abbott Laboratories, Zeneca/AstraZeneca, and GlaxoSmithKline) for more than 25 years, during which time he oversaw the approval of more than 20 drugs.

His areas of expertise include the ethics of human subject experimentation, drug development, regulatory science, and drug safety. Dr. Krall was a founding member of the Observational Medical Outcomes Partnership, served on its Executive Committee, and led its research subcommittee.

Dr. Krall is a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy. He holds a BA in mathematics from Swarthmore College, and an MD from the University of Pittsburgh. He was a Staff Associate in the Epilepsy Branch of the National Institutes of Health and completed his training in Neurology and a fellowship in Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Rochester.

Erik D. Laursen, MSD



Erik D. Laursen has been the Director of Business Development for Rentschler Biotechnologies since 2011. Prior to this appointment, Mr. Laursen supported several projects in the Seattle biotech community, including the development of the biopharmaceutical-focused curriculum for the University of Washington, where he also lectured.

Mr. Laursen served as VP of Business Development and Senior Director of Manufacturing at CMC Biologics. He was also Director of Operations at NeoRx, where his responsibilities included radio pharmaceutical production, biopharmaceutical pilot manufacturing, and contract manufacturing activities.

Mr. Laursen was Director of Operations at Phytogen in Vancouver, B.C., a paclitaxel API producer, and held Director and VP positions in development and operations at ZymoGenetics in Seattle. Prior to these appointments, he served as Director of Corporate Research Coordination for Novo Nordisk in Denmark.

Mr. Laursen received his MS in biochemical engineering from the Technical University of Denmark.

Suzanne Hendrix, PhD



Along with her appointment as Senior Advisor for Propel Bio Partners, Suzanne Hendrix is CEO of Pentara Corporation, a boutique CRO in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA specializing in statistics and data management in neurodegenerative diseases. Under her leadership, Pentara has supported the study design, data collection, and analysis of over 50 clinical trials since 2008.

Ms. Hendrix has more than 30 years of clinical trials experience with time spent at CROs and pharmaceutical companies, including projects across many disease areas including respiratory, oncology, reproductive, and cardiovascular. She has been instrumental in analysis and reporting for multiple regulatory submissions including NDAs, PLAs, and ISS/ISE documents.

Ms. Hendrix has first authored or co-authored over 150 peer-reviewed publications related to both clinical trial results and statistical approaches for clinical trials, most of which relate to analysis and design of trials for neurodegenerative diseases. She has extensive experience in optimally measuring progression over time and identifying outcomes that are likely to be sensitive to effects due to treatments that modify important aspects of the disease.

Ms. Hendrix received her PhD from Boston University working with Ralph D’Agostino, a well-respected statistical consultant for the FDA, editor of Statistics in Medicine and Fellow of the American Statistical Association.

She has recently been involved with the World Health Organization in a collaboration to develop an intrinsic capacity score to measure the maintenance of health at older ages.

Richard Sudek, PhD



In addition to his role as advisor for Propel Bio Partners, Richard Sudek, PhD serves as UCI’s Chief Innovation Officer and Executive Director of UCI Applied Innovation. He has been an active angel investor through direct investment and angel funds since 2000. He has also served on the Angel Capital Association board, a national trade group. He is Chairman Emeritus of Tech Coast Angels (TCA), the largest angel organization in the US, which has invested $255+ million in over 465 startup companies—all of which have attracted over $1.8 billion in follow-on investments.

Dr. Sudek is also a member of Golden Seeds, the largest angel group in the US, focused on women-led startups, investing over $135 million in approximately 200 companies. He has screened over 1,000 startup companies, currently sits on the TCA Board of Governors, and serves as an advisor to venture funds, academic centers, engineering, and high-tech firms.

Dr. Sudek founded Nadek Computer Systems, a data networking design business. He served as CEO for 17 years before selling the company to international firm Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). He continued to consult as Vice President of the company before pursuing a career in academics.

Universities and businesses throughout the world have benefited from Dr. Sudek’s expertise, which includes entrepreneurial finance, strategy, and leadership, as well as angel investing, executive coaching, and business partnerships. He has served as an advisor to several MBA programs, a reviewer for the National Science Foundation, and has judged business plan competitions in the US and Europe. He has taught entrepreneurship at Chapman University, INSEAD in France, the Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands, U.C. at Irvine, and the Peter F. Drucker & Masatoshi Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University. He also has served on advisory committees for Microsoft, IBM, and Cisco.

Dr. Sudek earned a BS in information and computer sciences from UCI, a PhD in management and master’s degrees in business administration and organizational behavior at Claremont Graduate University. His research has focused primarily on the angel investment decision process, examining how and why angel investors choose their investments.

Carol Criner



Ms. Criner is an experienced senior executive with a track record for growing companies in highly competitive environments. She currently serves as Vice President of Strategic Accounts at HCL Technologies, an $11 billion global IT and engineering services company headquartered in Noida, India.

Ms. Criner has more than 2 decades of experience in the telecom/media and retail industries, serving in leadership positions in finance, sales, and business operations for highly regarded brands such as Verizon and T-Mobile.

As an entrepreneur, she has excelled in building start-ups and private companies, and in leadership positions including President of Wireless Advocates for 5 years and CFO of HyperQuality, an international venture-backed start-up focused on call center quality assurance (now an Avaya company).

Ms. Criner is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a certified public accountant. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Global Foodbanking Network, a non-profit organization active in 40 countries with a mission to alleviate hunger. Ms. Criner also serves as US Diversity lead for HCL Women Connect.