Distinguished Alumni Award

Leslie Jansa Williams 82BSN

2015 Achievement Award

Leslie Jansa Williams, 82BSN, has leveraged her rare blend of bedside manner and business savvy throughout her career as a former registered nurse, pharmaceutical sales and marketing leader, serial entrepreneur, and now CEO of biotechnology company, ImmusanTóan innovative organization dedicated to the development and delivery of technological advancements in medicine.

Raised in Gowrie, Iowa, Williams demonstrates a true dedication to the commercial development of early-stage medical products for patients with unmet clinical needs. Whether through hands-on work with patients, major drug companies, or the FDA, Williams has proven herself to be "a world-class professional who is talented, curious, [and] gifted," says UI College of Nursing Dean Rita Frantz. "Her commitment to improving the well-being of humankind is consistent with the tradition of the Iowa nurse."

"[The University of Iowa] nurtured the development of my character, fueled my curiosity, and gave me the wings to fly."

Williams says she grew her confidence and love for learning at the University of Iowa, the place that "nurtured the development of my character, fueled my curiosity, and gave me the wings to fly." Following graduation, she worked several years as a nurse, including two at UI Hospitals and Clinics, before taking on roles in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a sales representative and manager for a number of major global healthcare and pharmaceutical products companies, including Glaxo, Merck, and Ohmeda.

Williams established a reputation as an ambitious sales representative and business specialist, and continued to rise through various positions at several corporations after earning her MBA at Washington University in St. Louis. In 2004, she became CEO at respiratory technology company Ventaira Pharmaceuticals, where she led a massive reorganization that enabled the troubled company to be successfully sold.

Consulting work then took Williams to Battelle Ventures as a venture partner, where she sourced and evaluated early-stage technology companies as potential investment candidates and subsequently assisted them with strategy, management, and development. After leaving Battelle Ventures in 2009, Williams went on to co-found the biotech company Amplicea Therapeutics with a focus on transforming the way tumors are treated.

Currently as founder, director, and president of ImmusanT, Williams is on the brink of a major breakthrough for people with celiac disease. Thanks to her skilled guidance, the company garnered more than $34 million in venture financing and is in the process of advancing the clinical development of a revolutionary vaccine and diagnostic that will positively impact the health of millions of people around the world with celiac disease.

In every endeavor, Leslie Jansa Williams maintains "the highest level of energy, ethics, intelligence, and overall commitment to excellences that I have ever seen in one person" writes longtime colleague Chuck Bramlage, president and CEO of Pearl Therapeutics. "I have never in my career met someone I was so proud to have worked with as Leslie."

Williams is a member of the UI Alumni Associationís Old Capitol Club.

Volunteer Highlights
  • Director of the Capital Network, a nonprofit organization that provides education and assistance to entrepreneurs
  • Editorial advisory board member for Life Science Leader magazine
  • Leader of the board of directors for Hepregen, a company that promotes the development of new pharmaceuticals
  • Mentor in the Boston University Kindle Mentoring Program
  • Executive board member, UI College of Pharmacy

About Distinguished Alumni Awards

Since 1963, the University of Iowa has annually recognized accomplished alumni and friends with Distinguished Alumni Awards. Awards are presented in seven categories: Achievement, Service, Hickerson Recognition, Faculty, Staff, Recent Graduate, and Friend of the University.

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