Welcome to our new series examining what makes successful leaders in the life sciences industry tick — from their personal and professional habits to their hobbies and guilty pleasures. Today, we’re in conversation with Genlantis Diagnostics’ Ahsan Awan.
Trying to define Ahsan Awan by one field of expertise is like trying to grasp smoke. Just when you’ve got a handle on him, he shifts in another direction. Over the course of his multifaceted career, Awan has held senior-level roles at biopharma, CRO, clinical development and digital-tech companies. He’s also a tech whiz, creator of a medical school, sought-after SME and an acclaimed sports photographer.
In his current role as vice president of clinical development and digital health, and lead medical science liaison at Genlantis Diagnostics, which designs, develops, and commercializes diagnostics and point-of-care tests, Awan is always on the lookout for how to better address global diseases through innovative diagnostics.
When we spoke with Awan in 2021 after he was named a PharmaVoice Red Jacket honoree, his advice to peers in the industry was simple: “There are a lot of opportunities out there, and don’t resist any of it — just take it all on. Try your hand at every bit of it. Being in a silo is not a great experience.”
Even with all he’s accomplished, Awan said he’s far from done, when it comes to his next move in the industry, he hinted to PharmaVoice that “something really big is coming.”
We caught up with Awan to find out his goals, habits and who he turns to for advice.
What motivated you to get into the life sciences industry?
I grew up in the industry. I was basically born into clinical research. One day I woke up believing I could build a better mousetrap and do it better.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
I’d reduce reliance on what we know we know, celebrate experimenting with what we know we don’t know, and make time and space to explore what we don’t know.
What’s the biggest leadership mistake you’ve ever made?
I waited until a product was finished before I hired a sales team. That made the people who came on board mercenaries rather than authentic team members who shared the culture and vision of everyone who worked so hard to make the product.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
According to 23andMe, I’m 0.1% Finnish!
You have an unexpected hour of free time all to yourself: What do you do?
Scroll through TikTok and Instagram Reels, and tweet stuff (@quackarazzi).
What’s the most common misconception about executives in life sciences?
They’re boring, old and only wear suits.
What’s your favorite travel destination and why?
New Zealand. The people, the culture, the accents, the land and the energy; there’s no place like it.
What is your most prized possession and why?
My Canon cameras and lenses. Without them, I can't do what I love to do most.
What words do you live by?
What’s your biggest goal for this year?
Raise a series A private equity round for an entirely new venture that isn’t directly related to the life sciences industry.
What’s the most exciting change you’ve seen in the industry in the last decade?
The rapid advancement of mobile eClinical technologies. The shift away from paper has been a 25-year adventure, but the last 10 have been truly amazing.
What’s the biggest change you expect in the industry in the next five years?
The introduction of AI into the clinical research space. It’s really just beginning, but over the next few years, it will become a standard part of most new trials and programs.
Who do you turn to for advice?
My dad, first and foremost, and then any number of wise sages I keep in a close advisory circle.
What’s the biggest win you’ve had in your career?
Ask me in 18-24 months. Something really big is coming. Looking back, I don’t take ownership of what happened. I just feel lucky to have been surrounded by extraordinary people and amazing teams.