Linda Kawano

Job Title: Founder
Company: GroupOptima

Linda Suzu Kawano has worked to identify and commercialize early-stage innovations for over three decades. Her experience includes assessing and licensing diagnostic technologies for Abbott Laboratories, directing Northwestern University’s Technology Transfer Program, performing business development and marketing for Amersham Corporation, and consulting with inventors, academic institutions, and companies in the U.S. and abroad. Dr. Kawano negotiated the license agreement for Northwestern University’s discovery, pregabalin, commercialized as the blockbuster drug, LyricaÒ. She founded her consulting firm, GroupOptima in 1996. Throughout its twenty-seven-year existence, GroupOptima has provided licensing, training and management assistance to universities, companies, and entrepreneurs.

Dr. Kawano’s particular interest is in the training and mentoring of students and professionals. Her experience includes teaching at The University of Chicago Booth Graduate School of Business, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and training technology transfer officers and post-graduate students abroad.

Presently, Dr. Kawano focuses her efforts on coaching scientists and other professionals in their presentations to non-scientists. Drawing upon her experience and studies of performance and storytelling, at The Second City Training Center, she develops programs focused on teaching scientists and other professionals how to connect with their intended audiences. She uses interactive and experiential approaches to teaching business transaction communications. Some of her work involves using role-play acting to teach negotiations and dispute resolutions, coaching and teaching storytelling fundamentals for enhancing business communications, and conducting workshops to teach scientists and business professionals the basics of improvisation for building relationships.

Dr. Kawano was the business partner of the late celebrity Chef/Entrepreneur Homaro Cantu, a molecular gastronomist who was
Executive Chef and owner of Moto Restaurant and CEO of Cantu Designs, a Chicago-based culinary innovation company.

As Vice President of Business Development for Cantu Designs, she worked with Chef Cantu to commercialize his inventions and built and established numerous business relationships over its ten-year existence. Dr. Kawano is a past board member of the Association of University Technology Transfer Managers (AUTM). For her work in promoting university-business relations she received the 1999 AUTM Excellence Award. In 2016, She received the AUTM Volunteerism Award for her work on the AUTM Women Inventors Committee. She is a co-author of a chapter covering the Committee’s accomplishments in “New Perspectives in Gender, Science & Innovation” (2020), and a contributor to “Higher Education Engagement in Economic Development: Foundations for Strategy and Practice” (2015), published by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the University Economic Development Association.

Her formal education includes a doctorate in Biological Sciences and Experimental Pathology from the University of Illinois at Chicago