Dr. Leen Kawas – Fraud Exposed in Research Papers

Dr. Leen Kawas is the former CEO of Athira Pharma who had to resign after she was caught doctoring images in her scientific papers. 

Athira was facing multiple class action lawsuits when its shareholders alleged that the company made misleading claims to the SEC in its filings. 

After these class action lawsuits, the company became rather active in reviewing its documentation. 

The WSU had begun investigating claims that Leen had used doctored images in 4 different papers she had authored. 

Leen Kawas

When the university revealed that they were reviewing those claims, Athira sent Dr. Leen Kawas to a temporary leave. 

The company replaced her with the COO Mark Litton at the time. 

They had formed a special committee to investigate the claims. The investigation found that Leen had not only altered images in her 4 co-authored research papers but also in her 2011 doctoral dissertation. 

Hence, she had used doctored images in at least 5 research papers when she studied at Washington State University. 

After the firm found out about this, they terminated her role as their CEO. 

Dr. Leen Kawas resigned from the company and in exchange, the company let her have the firm’s stock options. 

More Information About the Case:

It’s worth noting that the papers where Leen used altered images were related to Athira’s products. 

Luckily, she didn’t use doctored images in the research papers for their flagship product, ATH-1017.

Athira even released a statement to highlight that ATH-1017 was not the subject of her research. 

Their patent for ATH-1017 doesn’t cite these papers. 

However, the papers where Dr. Leen Kawas altered images set the stage for the company’s ongoing clinical trials for ATH-1017. 

Moreover, using altered images raises questions on the integrity and ethics of Dr. Leen Kawas. She consistently used modified images in her 5 research papers when she was at WSU.

After her resignation, Athira thanked her for her “unwavering focus” in making a meaningful difference for Alzheimer’s patients. 

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According to their separation agreement, Dr. Leen Kawas received around $510,000 and retained her stock options in the firm. 

Furthermore, the company promoted Rachel Lenington, their CTO to COO. 

The company is extending its phase 2/4 trial for people with mild-moderate Alzheimer’s.

After Dr. Leen Kawas’ news of leaving Athira came out,  the company’s stock plummeted. However, the company had raised over $200 million through its IPO in 2020. 

Also, the investigation revealed Leen had altered images in papers Athira used for dihexa, a drug candidate licensed exclusively to Athira. 

They tried developing the firm but couldn’t demonstrate it as a successful therapeutic product. 

Where is Dr. Leen Kawas Now: 

After she was forced to leave Athira, Dr. Leen Kawas became the managing general parter of Propel Bio Partners, a private equity firm.

Propel Bio Partners specializes in biotech and invests in companies working in the sector. 

Other notable people working at this company include: 

  • Richard Kayne (General Partner)
  • Arnav Jolly (Investor)
  • Erik Gonzalez-Leon (Investor)
  • Dasom Yoo (Investor)

Their address is 1800 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles, CA 90067. 

There is no information available on the net worth of Dr. Leen Kawas. 


Using doctored images in a research paper crucial for the development of medicine is a huge red flag. 

It suggests Dr. Leen Kawas is not as ethical as she markets herself to be. 

Even though she was a co-founder of Athira pharma, she had to leave the firm because of her unethical conduct. Certainly, you should avoid dealing with her at all costs. 

However, it’s quite common among private equity firm leaders to use corrupt methods for furthering their motives. 

Just recently, the owner of Hauser Private Equity was convicted for fraud when he was caught promoting an illegal college admission scheme.

Hence, beware of Leen Kawas.

2.5Expert Score
1User's score
  • None
  • Lacks ethics
  • Caught using doctored images in 5 different research papers
  • Faced negligible consequences
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1 Comment
  1. 0.5

    I mean…she is rich regardless. Those stock options are worth millions of dollars. She really didn’t face any consequences.

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