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.

Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.

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Childhood in Manila: Nurtured by Love and Support

Born and raised in Manila, Lieza’s childhood was marked by love, support, and a passion for science. A full scholarship to a science high school paved the way for her academic success, eventually leading to a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Ateneo De Manila University.

During her college years Lieza fell in love with the intricacies of the sciences, particularly chemistry, fueling her desire to pursue a career in research. While at the Ateneo De Manila University, she got to work with the only mass spectrometer instrument in the country.

Lieza recalls that it felt like she was working with her favorite Lego toys. They were like puzzles that she needed to piece together to figure out the structure of the molecule, which was utterly fascinating.

Her post-graduate degree involved working at the National Chemistry Instrumentation Center and getting mentoring from her professors. They inspired Lieza to become a better scientist and aspire for a more advanced degree outside the Philippines.

After completing her education, she became both a professor and an analytical chemist at the university.

Falling in Love with Science: The Journey to Academic Success

Lieza’s journey took a pivotal turn when she was offered a full scholarship for a Ph.D. program in the United States.

Despite the challenges of uprooting her life, Lieza remained focused on her dream of becoming a mass spectrometrist and delving into the world of drug development, biochemistry, biology, and biomolecules.

Lieza’s determination and passion propelled her through the rigors of academia, leading to opportunities in prestigious institutions and biotech companies. At the time, a lot of innovative technology was emerging in the space.

Lieza kept learning and following her passion, which, along with her experience in the Philippines, became her leverage to get into the drug development industry.

She also got an introduction to the whole corporate and business side of things and an understanding of the stages and cycles of building companies.

A Turning Point: Stemcentrx and the Birth of an Entrepreneurial Spirit

Lieza worked for mid-sized companies like Lancaster Laboratories, Inc. and Sutro Biopharma, Inc. She recalls enjoying the innovation, learning, and opportunity to grow, which made her gravitate toward it. Her career continued to take off with other biotech startups recruiting her.

However, her time at Stemcentrx proved to be a turning point in Lieza’s entrepreneurial journey, where she got her dream job as head of mass spectrometry.

The folks at Sutro tried to convince her to stay with incentives like more stocks, a higher salary, a new instrument, and a luxury car. However, Lieza opted to sign up for something really groundbreaking at Stemcentrx.

Surrounded by visionaries and inspired by the culture of innovation, Lieza realized the untapped potential of glycobiology in drug discovery. This realization would lay the groundwork for her future endeavors.

Lieza remembers feeling like she was woken up from operating like a robot and having her awareness elevated on many different levels over the three and a half years she spent in Stemcentrx. The experience and exposure helped her understand the drug development process at the molecular level.

From the target discovery to developing drugs, scaling development, and manufacturing and from research grade to midsize scale all the way to hundreds of liters supporting clinical trials, Lieza was there every step of the way using the mass spec instrument.

Not only did she learn the science aspect, but Lieza was also exposed to the behavior and mindsets of her colleagues, mentors, and bosses. This exposure ignited her entrepreneurial spirit, as did listening to inspirational speakers like Peter Thiel and Jimmy Chin at their quarterly meetings.

During Lieza’s time in the company, it was acquired for $6B. She credits Brian Slingerland, the former CEO; Scott Dila, the former CSO; Dan Reiner, the President; and the management team for inspiring her to become an entrepreneur.

As Lieza reveals, at least 15 startups resulted from 150 employees at the Stemcentrx community. In the last two weeks, two were acquired as unicorns by big pharma.

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Founding Intervenn: Revolutionizing Drug Discovery & Diagnostics Through Glycobiology

In collaboration with esteemed professors and entrepreneurs, Lieza co-founded InterVenn Biosciences, a biotech company focused on leveraging glycobiology for drug discovery and diagnostics.

Lieza talked about how the biopharma industry was running out of drug targets, and then she remembered interactions with multiple professors in graduate school. She knew that glycobiology was undervalued, and the glycoproteome was an untapped field that could be used to identify targets.

Lieza started to think about exploring the glycoproteome to identify drug targets and why it was not experimented with at the industry level, like academia.

She reached out to her former UC Davis mass spectrometry professor, Prof Carlito B. Lebrilla, Ph.D., and collaborator, Nobel Laureate Prof Carolyn Bertozzi, Ph.D., at Stanford University, to start the company.

Together with Carolyn and Carlito, they started working on the premise that glycobiology is ideal for clinical diagnostics and target discovery.

It needs to be explored at the industry level so that there can be more successful drugs out there and more accurate tools for early diagnosis of illnesses such as cancer.

Scaling New Heights: The Success Story of Intervenn

Under Lieza’s leadership, InterVenn flourished with recognition within the health tech startup ecosystem, eventually attracting investment worth $250M+ even after Lieza’s departure. The company’s innovative approach to glycobiology garnered praise and paved the way for its success.

Storytelling is everything, which is something that Lieza Danan was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend Peter Thiel (see it here), where the most critical slides are highlighted.

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Building LiVeritas Biosciences

Lieza reveals that to start LiVeritas, she leveraged her experience in drug development and building an AI-based glycoproteomics company at InterVenn. They streamline one of the most tedious aspects of drug development: analytical testing of drugs for quality, safety, and efficacy.

Typically, a mass spectrometer is used for this purpose. However, software available for mass spec data crunching is fragmented and most of the complex data curation had no tools for it.

To deal with the problem, Lieza came up with LiVeritas®, which connects all the fragmented data curation tools through an integration platform called LiLii™.

Next, it is spiced up with different AI tools to speed up the testing process, much like automation. It is an operation efficiency play with multiple business models, including a service business model, which Lieza has called her Trojan horse for over four years while building the technology.

They cater to all aspects of drug development, drug quality, safety, and efficacy testing. This year, they were able to present more about their AI platform.

As Lieza explains, LiLii stands for Laboratory Integration and Intelligence and has multiple functions for digital transformation, testing workflow integration, predictive analytics, and automation.

LiLii is borne of Lieza’s experiences with multiple biopharma advisers, team members, consultants, and friends from the industry.

Although Lieza is the face of the company, LiVeritas’ team members in the US, Europe, and the Philippines leverage the Internet to collaborate and create the LiLii AI brain.

Their objective is to automate and streamline the entire testing process so that drug developers and biopharma scientists are equipped with high-quality mass spec data in a timely manner instead of waiting for two weeks, one month, or three months.

The tool turns the data around within days, and the goal is to make it available within two days from when samples are ready for testing.

Confronting Adversity: A Cancer Diagnosis and the Power of Community

However, amidst the triumphs of entrepreneurship, Lieza faced a formidable challenge—cancer. Diagnosed with classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma, she confronted this adversity with the same resilience and determination that defined her entrepreneurial journey.

Lieza expresses her appreciation for her co-founders and co-founding team members who stepped up and took the reins from her. She is personally grateful to even her investors from the biopharma and mass spec industries, who were caring and supportive.

Lieza dealt with the challenge just as she faced every project head-on. She reached out to her personal friends from the biopharma space, college, high school, and the Bay Area. She surrounded herself with cancer survivors and Hematology & Oncology experts from her science high school.

She also connected with a family friend who is a professor at Stanford University and was the President of the American Society of Hematology. Interacting with the right people helped guide her through the process and identify the best treatment for her illness.

The treatment included antibody-drug conjugates, the class of smart drugs Lieza developed. It has minimal side effects and high efficacy, Lieza explains.

Today, as a cancer survivor and successful entrepreneur, Lieza Danan continues to inspire others with her story of triumph over adversity. Her advice to fellow founders echoes her own journey—ensure that your heart, mind, and body are aligned, and let passion be your guiding light.

Conclusion: Lieza Danan’s Legacy of Triumph and Inspiration

Lieza’s journey reminds us that despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles, resilience, vision, and unwavering determination can lead to extraordinary achievements.

Celebrating her accomplishments reminds us that the human spirit can transcend adversity and turn challenges into triumphs.

Listen to the full podcast episode to know more, including:

  • 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.



For a winning deck, see the commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400M (see it here). 

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The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks

Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.


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Neil Patel

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