Neil Patel

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In the bustling landscape of entrepreneurship, where every success story seems like a triumph against all odds, Lieza Danan’s journey stands out as a beacon of resilience, vision, and unwavering determination.

From her humble beginnings in the Philippines to scaling the heights of the biotech industry in the United States, Lieza’s story is a testament to the power of perseverance and the importance of staying true to one’s vision.

In this interview, she talks about the importance of vision in building businesses and how the startup ecosystem in the Philippines works. Leiza’s latest startup, LiVeritas Biosciences, has attracted funding from top-tier investors like EXPERT DOJO and several angel investors who are pioneers in the biopharma and mass spectrometry industries.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • Lieza Danan’s journey exemplifies the transformative power of resilience and unwavering determination to overcome life’s challenges.
  • From her childhood in Manila to her groundbreaking work in the biotech industry, Lieza’s story underscores the importance of staying true to one’s passion and vision.
  • Pursuing excellence in academia and navigating the complexities of the biotech landscape, Lieza’s journey is a testament to the power of perseverance.
  • Stemcentrx ignited Lieza’s entrepreneurial spirit and inspired her to revolutionize drug discovery through glycobiology.
  • Co-founding LiVeritas, Lieza embarked on a mission to streamline drug development processes and pave the way for innovative solutions in the biotech industry.
  • Despite facing the formidable challenge of cancer, Lieza’s resilience and the support of her community propelled her through adversity, reinforcing the importance of love, support, and passion.
  • Lieza’s journey offers valuable lessons on resilience, vision, and the alignment of heart, mind, and body, inspiring aspiring entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams with unwavering determination.



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About Lieza Danan:

Lieza Danan, PhD is a San Francisco Bay Area-based serial biotech entrepreneur who has experience with Zero to One (Intervention) and Unicorn (Stemcentrx) biotech startups.

As Co-Founder & CEO/COO/CSO at Intervenn, she raised $9.4M for Seed to Series A. Subsequently, Genoa Ventures recruited Dr. Danan to reposition its portfolio company,Intabio, for a Series B raise of $18M.

Additionally, Dr. Danan has in-house operations expertise as Head of Mass Spectrometry at Stemcentrx. From a technical standpoint, she has 20+ years in the field of mass spectrometry.

From the biopharma industry perspective, she applied her mass spec expertise for 10 years working for 6 biopharma, biotech and startup companies with different business models:

  1. Outsourcing of cGMP analytical tests at Eurofins Lancaster Labs Inc (ELLI) catering to the needs of over 20 biopharma clients;
  2. In-sourcing solutions initiation and expansion of Eurofins LLI scientific talent on-site at client Genentech South San Francisco (4 departments in early- and late-stage drug development);
  3. Early-stage drug development at Sutro Biopharma (IPO, 2018);
  4. End-to-end drug development at Stemcentrx ($5.6Bn Acquisition, 2016, Abbvie);
  5. Co-founded glycoproteomics-focused biomarker discovery for Rx target discovery at CDx companion diagnostics at Intervenn Biosciences (Series C, $201M);
  6. Strategic advisor and technical consultant to device/instrumentation-focused Intabio (Series B, $18M; Acquisition, Jan 2021, Sciex).

She received her Bachelors in Science degree in Chemistry at the Ateneo De Manila University in the Philippines, and her Doctorate in Philosophy in Biological Chemistry at the University of California Davis.

Prior to attending graduate school at UC Davis, Dr. Danan created and managed her first high-throughput analytical operations laboratory with a team of three analysts at the National Chemistry Instrumentation Center, Philippines, following US EPA regulatory guidelines for trace analysis of environmental pollutants.

The round-the-clock operations supported the needs of a local environmental toxicology project in collaboration with and funded by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Boston, MA).

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Connect with Lieza Danan:

Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:

Alejandro Cremades: Alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the deal makers show. So today we have a very exciting founder. You know we’re gonna be talking about building scaling. We’re gonna talk about the importance of vision you know and how she goes about really developing the vision for the companies that she is say founded.

Lieza Danan: Um.

Alejandro Cremades: Especially the last one you know, ah the vision that ji had you know has really been the foundation for a company that has been able to raise 250000000 we’re going to be talking about also the filipino you know ecosystem you know when it comes to startups and other good stuff. You know that we like to hear typically I mean. We’re talking about a cancer survivor. You know that not only you know was dealing you know with that they fight but then also with the fight of building a company all in parallel so brace yourself for a very inspiring episode and without farther ado let’s welcome our guest today. Li ah Danan welcome to the show. So originally born and raised in the philippines Lisa so give us a walk through memory lane. How is life growing up over there.

Lieza Danan: Ilejandro.

Lieza Danan: Oh life in the Philippines was hot and full of traffic. Um I was born and raised in Manila um I was blessed to be. You know, have parents who are very loving and caring and truly supported my growth. Um, from when I was a child I went to a science high school and ah and received a full scholarship and that became my launch pad so to speak to receive a full scholarship as well in at 10 area in the manila university where I joined in an honors program. Um, that was a bachelor and where I receive a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. Um, that was a great that was great time that was really great time I was supported by loving parents loving extended family and a loving community both in school and also in in my. In our neighborhood. There was a lot of love and support growing up.

Alejandro Cremades: So how do you get into the whole sciences and chemistry because I mean you see obviously you you ended up doing pretty well in this domain and and you ended up getting a full scholarship within University There In Manila but.

Lieza Danan: Something. You know.

Alejandro Cremades: How do you started getting into this how how did the law start to Spark for this.

Lieza Danan: I fell in love with the sciences when I was in college the Atoneo De Manila University Chemistry Department gave me the opportunity to work with the only mass spec or mass spectrometer instrument in the entire country and it felt. Like I was working with legos which is my favorite toy growing up. You know there were like toys. There were like puzzles that I need to piece together to figure out the structure of a molecule I fell in love with that. And yeah, the naop gave me the opportunity. All the way to my post bachelor’s degree where I work in the national chemistry instrumentation center and that was the that was the beginning they meant my professors in that university mentored me. To become a better scientist to aspire for more advanced degree outside the Philippines and then eventually hoping that you know I’ll be able to give back to our department and of course to our country.

Alejandro Cremades: So then talk to us about after university too because I mean you do your master I mean you do your your degree there full scholarship there in Manila like incredible. You know the the way that things were shaping up you know and.

Lieza Danan: Me.

Alejandro Cremades: And then you know after this you you become a professor you know, associated there with the with with with the University Ah, but but essentially you know like what happened is that you were encouraged to come to the us and you were encouraged to come to the us to do a Ph d.

Lieza Danan: M.

Lieza Danan: And.

Alejandro Cremades: And it’s amazing. How the choices that we make you know end up putting us into different paths. But in this case, it put you into a path of tremendous growth. So tell us how did you take advantage of this opportunity and how was it like coming to the Us.

Lieza Danan: Um, yeah, right.

Lieza Danan: Oh my that was a big challenge coming to the us because I pretty much flip my life upside down but pretty much but very focused in achieving my dream right? to be a hardcore mass spectrometrist. And learn the world of biochemistry and biological and biomolecules. Um, so what did I do I really focused I remained focused with the vision to get my ph d and learn as much as I can. Luckily at that time there was growing um innovative technology already happening in the space. So I keep learning I followed my passion and that brought me into the world of drug development. Um, that interest became together with my experience in the Philippines became my leverage to get into the drug development industry.

Alejandro Cremades: So obviously there you know you were for for you know, whatever amount of time that took to really get your um you know Ph D But then right after that it’s like you you get into the whole world as you were saying of.

Lieza Danan: Um, ah right.

Alejandro Cremades: Drug development. You know the whole corporate you know and and and business side of things. So how did the things you know, like really develop because I mean there were like certain you know stages and cycles that you needed to go through on the business side of things you know, like first with lancaster then with je ning that we we soon Suntro. You know all the way towards a very pivotal moment for you which was the amount you know of time that you spent as stem centrics but then also the crazy outcome. You know where where that company got acquired for six billion so what were that sequence of events that leaded you.

Lieza Danan: Yes.

Alejandro Cremades: You know all the way to stem track stemre centrics and then you know which would eventually allow you to become a founder.

Lieza Danan: Yeah, yeah, you know like when when you’re an immigrant you stay focused to the dream right? like you remain focused in the passion you you stay you try to as much as spot I was surrounded by love growing up. So I channeled all of that love to my passions in what I was doing um, you know that was been my that has always been ah ah in my heart even when you know you’re operating like a robot so you go through the motions of. Whatever the universe was presenting to you in the silver platter the job opportunity at lancaster laboratories as principal scientists. Um and then being ah moved from europeans lancaster laboratories I was brought. To ah geninte as my primary client. Um still interacting. Ah still doing mass spectrometry but interacting with many very talented scientists at genintech as my clients and then from there I was recruited by. Sutro Biopharma again serving the silver platter still doing the same work mass spectro in um, bringing in mass spectrometry to develop novel drugs that was a great experience and I loved the culture of Sutro biopharma. It really opened my eyes.

Lieza Danan: But house biotech startups are my niche I love working for small companies I love working with small companies. There’s so much innovation. There’s so much learning. Um there’s so much opportunity to grow. Um, and I gravitated towards that. And then eventually from that experience at Sutro Biopharma I was recruited again by another biotech startups and this time stem centrics gave me my dream job as head of mass spectrometry and I no matter how you know Sutro. Um, try to convince me to stay asking for like the 3 things I want in order to stay more stocks more salary. A brand new instrument and in jokingly a a luxury car I said no to them because stems edges gave you my dream. Job and um I had to gently say no to my boss at Sutro because I knew that there’s something really groundbreaking that was presented to me again but in a silver platter like I realized. At that time alejandro that if I apply for a job I don’t get it but I have to listen to the jobs that were presented in front of me. Ah by the people around me ah previous colleagues. Um previews. Um.

Lieza Danan: But but by friends in the industry. Um, and and yeah timing is just it’s just amazing and and with stem centrics right? like this stuff when alvi acquired stem centrics that was a real eyeopening experience. Felt like I was starting to wake up stem centris was a catalyst in my life. Um, it helped me wake up from being from operating like a robot um and it elevated. You know it elevated. My awareness in so many different levels in just those three and a half years I spent at stem centrics. Yeah, that was a truly inspirational experience. Yeah yes.

Alejandro Cremades: And obviously it really got your awareness about the venture world because this was the most immediate step to you becoming an entrepreneur. So so tell us what was how was that transition like at what point how did you incubated you know the idea you know for the company.

Lieza Danan: Yeah.

Alejandro Cremades: Ah, in day for interve and then how all of a sudden and you find yourself being an entrepreneur and and and founding a business.

Lieza Danan: Sure right? So you know that experience and exposure at stem centrics help me understand at the molecular level the entire drug development process right from target discovery to. Ah, developing drugs um scaling up the drug development process the drug manufacturing process from research grade to like midsize scale all the way to ah hundreds of leaders for supporting clinical trials. Um. And mass spec is involved in every step of the way. Um, and so you know that was that was um, that was that was that was quite an experience. This was quite um, eye-opening experience. Um. The important aspect of going through that motion right? while going through the sciences was the behavior the mindset and of my colleagues and our bosses the the mentors our mentors while we became. Employees of the company were actually helping us open our eyes into entrepreneurship as early as that Peter Thiel was an inspirational speaker Jimmy Chin was an inspirational speaker. Um, the team lead that who successfully caught and.

Lieza Danan: Who successfully killed Bin Laden Osama Bin Laden was our inspirational speaker in one of our quarterly meetings. So our former Ceo our former cso and the you know management team of stem centrics help us wake up. To become entrepreneurs and a did bit of information. They were very successful in doing it because out of hundred and fifty employees 15 startups already came out of the stem centrics community. Um, and in the past two weeks 2 became unicorns 2 were acquired as unicorns. Um, so that unicorn are producing more unicorns because we were all exposed to the unicorn mindset so it was a great experience and really so grateful to Brian Slingerland Scott Dila and Dan right? Dan Reiner these are the ceos cs os and president of the company.

Alejandro Cremades: And obviously for Intervene the vision you know in which you guys you know build you know the whole thing was Pivotal. You know for the company to be able to get to where it has say you know Gotten. So What were they fundamental. You know pillars of that vision.

Lieza Danan: Yeah, the vision was we at stamp centrics. There was an acknowledgement that we’re running out of drug candidates of drug sorry drug targets right? We were running out of drug drug targets. So. In my mind based on my interaction with multiple professors in graduate school I know that glycobiology is an under that has a is in an tap field. The glycoproteome is in then tap field. For where targets can be identified and you know it just dawned on me like why? Why are drug development companies not looking into the world of the glycoprodium for identifying drug targets. Why is. Glycobiology not more experimented at the industry level like in academia you know glycobiology is very well studied but not in industry not in not a gen I well ah in my exposuregenec at that time. Not a genin tech not at Sutro not at stem centrics based on my knowledge glycobiology was untapped so it daunted me that I should be reaching out to my former professors at Ucdavis and former collaborators at ucdavis.

Lieza Danan: So I brought in professor Carlito Librilia and then also professor Carolyn Bertoi um to start a new company and um, we had a fourth co-found co-founder um Aldo Carrascoso who is um is a startup entrepreneur entrepreneur a serial startup entrepreneur and in the tech industry so together the 4 of us started interve the visioning was again the realization that um gco biology is adapt for Target Discovery for clinical diagnostics. So this needs to be explored at the industry level so that there’ll be more successful drugs out there.

Alejandro Cremades: So so eventually you know the company intervene ended up becoming a really big success. You know over 250000000 and and doing incredible stuff now on your end you know once an entrepreneur always an entrepreneur so you ended up a turning page.

Lieza Danan: Is another.

Alejandro Cremades: And in order to you know, open up the next page which become live it does So what are you guys up to what live it does. You know? what’s the ah business model there.

Lieza Danan: Oh we are quite liberus is quite something. It’s a combination of all the experiences I had in drug development and also starting an aiaiglycoproteomics company at inter interend. Um. What we’re doing is we’re streamlining one of the most tious aspects of drug development which is analytical testing for quality for safety and toxic and and for efficacy um usually um, an instrument called mass spectrometer is used for this purpose. Um, but massspec does not have Mas Speck is not streamlined mass spec analysis is not streamlined the tools. The software tools available right now are fragmented and what we do. Li vertas is to connect all of these fragmented tools through an integration platform called Lily and we spice it up with different Ai tools to speed up the entire testing process. So we it’s pretty much an automation plague. Um, it’s pretty much an operation efficiency play and so we have multiple business models. We have the service business model which I call my trojan horse for 4 years we cover you know while we are developing our technology we present to the world. Our service business model.

Lieza Danan: We call it loosely mass spec as a service straightforward. We cater to um, all aspects of drug development ah for drug quality safety and efficacy testing and ah this year ah fine we are able to present more about our platform. Our Ai platform we call lily um lily stands for laboratory integration and intelligence and it has multiple functions for digital transformation. Workflow testing workflow integration for predictive analytics and also automation and you know it’s it’s’s it’s a brainchild of multiple biopharma advisers team members consultants. My friends from the industry. Um the face of the company is me but since liverass is the ika guy is an ikiga expression of who I am as a scientist and as a human being I bring in a lot of my friends from the Philippines. From the United States from attheeo from the science high school from the mass spec community and from the bioarma community to create the ai brain of Lily um, and so the goal is to automate.

Lieza Danan: And streamline the entire process so that drug developers. The biopharma scientists can be equipped with mass spec data un ambiguous high quality mass spec data in a timely manner instead of waiting for two weeks one month three months. We will turn around data within days and the goal is to make it less than two days from the time they submit their samples. So that’s what Lily is all about that’s what livertus is all about.

Alejandro Cremades: Now 1 thing that is incredible. Is you know with livertas at the same time that you were pushing and and building the business. You were also you know dealing with cancer. You know how were you able to to really you know push through through both you know. Fights you know at the same time in the way that you’ve done.

Lieza Danan: Oh my gosh First again, you’re growing up surrounded by love and care and support. That’s pretty much what I did as well I surrounded myself with the best co-founders and founding team members who are willing to step up. Um. And take take on the reins while I was dealing with when I was dealing with my cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy. Um, personally so I’m very grateful for I’m very grateful for all of them. Um. My my even my investors um, also from the biopharma industry and the mass spec industry who’ve known me for a while they were so caring and supportive. Um, so it’s truly grateful for them. So but personally um.

Lieza Danan: Yeah I had to do some kind of like a mindset mind trick ninja right? Yeah like ah you have to be prepared for the worst. Um, what I did was after I found out that I had cancer. Um. Had to switch to project management mode. Um, maybe I I freaked out for about an hour and then realized nope this is just going to be another project. So what am I going to do when I’m managing a project I surround myself with experts. So I went ahead and started reaching out to my personal friends where my personal friends are also my biopharma friends and my friends from the science high school and from the Bay Area so I was surrounded by um, cancer survivors. I surrounded myself with cancer survivors um with hematologist oncologists experts from my science high school and one of and and also my family friend who is a professor at at Stanford ah, university. And he was the president as well of the american society of hematology. So I was literally you know one phone call away all the time um to connect with experts and answer Michael and and and ask my questions. Um.

Lieza Danan: So that’s step 1 for project management rights surround myself with experts find the right people who will guide me through the process and they help me identify the best treatment for my illness so I was I was diagnosed with classical Hudgkin’s lymphoma and luckily. Um, one of the drugs that you know one of the novel drugs that’s been out there helping cure disease um called um, antibody drug conjugates. That’s my expertise I help develop antibody drug conjugates.

Lieza Danan: There was already an antibody drug conjugate developed for my cancer and surprisingly um, well not surprisingly but this is like again serving a Silver Plater one of the investors of leverritas was a developer of ah of. Of the drug that was given to me so you know my doctors my friend doctors and also my oncologist provided me with the guidance on the clinical trials that was basis for the treatment and then so I talked to my investor and he said yes. That’s the drug that I helped develop and check out more of this information about its efficacy. Its safety. The side effects are very important to understand but the side effects are minor. So go ahead and talk to your oncologist and make sure you will get this drug. Instead of what was being offered back then so you know I guess the lesson learned from that experience was when you surround yourself with love when you surround yourself with with when you operate in love in. And you operate in passion right? Love for learning your passion for mass spec your passion for biologics your passion for helping ah patients through developing to help through developing antibody drug conjugates this type of drug will also help you cure get cured. Um.

Lieza Danan: So that was that was a great moment in my life and in realizing why I have so many friends. Um, and why ah I you know I I surrounded myself with many friends and I made a lot of friends along the way. Um in the Philippines and also here in the United States um yeah community nothing like it. Yes.

Alejandro Cremades: So community nothing like it and so I guess a nothing like it. So let’s say I’m able to um, you know, put you into a time machine and I bring you back in time to let’s say. A world you know where you’re like now thinking about starting your first company. Let’s say you know back in I don’t know like when you were like about to give the notice they’re in 2017 from stem centrics. Okay and let’s say you’re able to stop that younger leaha and give that younger les ah 1 piece of advice before launching a business.

Lieza Danan: Root.

Lieza Danan: Then.

Alejandro Cremades: What would that be what would that 1 piece of advice be and why.

Lieza Danan: Make sure your heart mind and body are aligned 1 piece advice. That’s it.

Alejandro Cremades: That’s it I love it. So so Lisa for the people that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so.

Lieza Danan: You can find me in Facebook and you can find me in Linkedin message me I’ll definitely respond I’m happy to share with you. All of my lessons learned um cancer became my catalyst as well. It is what I called my most obnoxious teacher happy to. Share with you. What I learned um, you know there’s so much eye opening experience I’ve experienced in the past seven years of my life. Um, happy to share with you this things you don’t need to have cancer in order for them for in order for you to realize them.

Alejandro Cremades: Amazing there you go so is um, thank you so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been an absolute honor to have you with us.

Lieza Danan: Just ask a question.

Lieza Danan: Thank you so much Ali Handra for this opportunity. This is a great platform.


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