Mackay’s Rallybio rare disease startup raises $37M in first funding round

Rallybio, a new, early-stage startup from Alexion Pharmaceuticals veterans Martin Mackay, Stephen Uden and Jeffrey Fryer, announced it raised $37 million in series A financing since being launched earlier this year.

The company plans to develop antibodies, small molecules and engineered proteins for rare and orphan diseases, and is currently reviewing potential assets in hopes of building a portfolio focused in the late-discovery to early clinical stages.

“We are very excited to be running our own shop,” Mackay told FierceBiotech, describing the decision to co-found a more risky venture as simply the next stage for the trio, and making use of a unique set of skills.

“As a small firm, we can maximize the advantages of being highly entrepreneurial and very nimble,” he said. “We also have the benefits of a very small expense base, coupled with a global network of outside resources that we’ve built over the course of our careers.”

Rallybio has begun hiring and plans to have seven or eight employees by the end of the year, with about 15 by the end of 2019. Last December, the startup celebrated opening its first laboratory at the University of Connecticut’s Technology and Incubator Program campus in Farmington, Connecticut.

It hopes to identify and advance therapeutic candidates this year as well, across a wide range of settings including central nervous system disorders, metabolic disorders, musculoskeletal diseases, nephrology and hematology. But the company has no plans to explore oncology, infectious diseases, ophthalmology or vaccines, Mackay said.

5AM Ventures, Canaan Partners and New Leaf Venture Partners led the funding round, along with contributions from Connecticut Innovations, the state’s venture capital arm.

RELATED: Alexion's C-suite overhaul continues as CFO, R&D chief exit, new commercial head enters

Mackay stepped down from rare disease drugmaker Alexion last year, after joining in 2013 as global head of R&D. There he helped oversee new indications for Soliris (eculizumab), and the development of Strensiq (asfotase alfa) in juvenile hypophosphatasia and Kanuma (sebelipase alfa) for lysosomal acid lipase deficiency. Prior to that, he served as president of R&D at AstraZeneca, as well as research head of Pfizer Pharmatherapeutics.

“Those are all excellent firms with proven track records of developing important new medicines,” Mackay said. “We would like to continue on that path, and in our own way provide transformative therapies for patients with severe and rare disorders.”

Uden helped expand Alexion’s research pipeline to over 30 programs as a senior vice president, and formerly led Wyeth and Novartis Oncology’s work in Japan. He also led R&D at Neurogen, and in several international positions at Pfizer. Fryer, meanwhile, served as a VP and chief tax officer at Alexion, and previously held financial leadership roles at the chemicals and materials manufacturers Chemtura and Lydall.