Industry Veteran Rusty Williams Leads Startup to $50 Million Series A

Dollar Bills

Industry veteran Dr. Lewis T. "Rusty" Williams made the decision to resign from Five Prime Therapeutics' board of directors less than two years ago to focus on being chief executive officer of Walking Fish Therapeutics. And now, that decision appears to be paying off.

South San Francisco-based Walking Fish started the week off strong by announcing its closing of a $50 million Series A financing round on Monday. The funds will be used to develop B cell therapeutics for a variety of areas including oncology, rare disease, regenerative medicine, autoimmune disease and recombinant antibody production.

“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,” Williams said. “Walking Fish is harnessing the unique features of B cells to address unmet needs in the treatment for solid tumors, and in non-oncology indications in which B cells can uniquely and durably deliver important proteins with known therapeutic activity.”

The round was led by investors Emerson Collective, Illumina Ventures and Quan Capital.

Williams and Walking Fish's other leaders are working to pave the way for B cell platform and drug development at the company.

“B cells play an important role in the rejection of tumors by the immune system,” said Dr. Mark Selby, co-founder and VP of immunology for Walking Fish Therapeutics. “We have learned to engineer B cells that can target certain cancers and provide a treatment modality that is different from that of other T cell or antibody therapies.”

The company was co-founded by Williams and Selby. Williams is no stranger to founding and growing biotech companies. A couple of major highlights from his past include co-founding COR Therapeutics and perhaps what he is most well-known for: founding Five Prime Therapeutics.

On top of founding Five Prime nearly 20 years ago, Williams served in a variety of leadership roles at that company including president, chief executive officer and executive chairman of the board. He stepped down as CEO nearly four years ago. While he was leading Five Prime, it developed multiple global partnerships and became a publicly traded company. Five Prime was acquired by Amgen earlier this year for a whopping $1.9 billion. 

Back to news