4 years after leaving Prime time, Rusty Williams lands a new job leading school of Walking Fish

Hoping to evolve new treatments across the board using B-cell therapies, Walking Fish Therapeutics has nabbed $50 million and a new chief in the form of an industry veteran.

It’s been four years since Five Prime Therapeutics’ founder Rusty Williams, M.D., Ph.D., made way for a new chief and, ultimately, a $1.9 billion buyout deal from Amgen for a collection of cancer assets back in March. Since then he’s been relatively quiet, but clearly he's been busy helping brew a new biotech.

Rusty Williams Walking Fish
Rusty Williams, M.D., Ph.D.
(Walking Fish)

He’s now back in the driver's seat of another startup, 20 years after doing so with Five Prime. At Walking Fish, he has $50 million and the backing of the likes of Illumina for a highly ambitious target of developing B-cell therapeutics for oncology, rare disease, regenerative medicine, autoimmune disease and recombinant antibody production.

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Walking Fish claims to be able to do this because of “critical advances” in developing a platform to harness B cells’ capability to activate the immune system in the treatment of cancer. The biotech has been working in stealth mode for the past two years.

As ever, the proof will be in the pudding, and that will take many years to rise, but Williams is clearly excited.

“In my 35 years of academic and biotech research on protein drugs, the field of B-cell therapeutics may be the biggest paradigm shift for human protein therapies,” he said.

Alongside Williams is Mark Selby, Ph.D., co-inventor of Bristol Myers’ checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo and now a co-founder of Walking Fish and vice president of immunology.