Allena Pharma Taps AstraZeneca PLC Exec as New CFO

Allena Pharmaceuticals Strengthens Leadership Team, Names Edward Wholihan as Chief Financial Officer and Robert Alexander, PhD, to Board of Directors

NEWTON, Mass.--()--Allena Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a specialty biopharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercializing innovative, non-systemic, oral protein therapeutics to treat metabolic and orphan diseases, today announced that Edward Wholihan has joined the company as Chief Financial Officer and Robert Alexander, PhD, has been named to the Board of Directors.

Mr. Wholihan brings more than 25 years of financial, operational, and global business development leadership in the healthcare and technology sectors to Allena.

Dr. Alexander currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of ZS Pharma, a subsidiary of AstraZeneca. ZS Pharma, a biopharmaceutical company developing a novel treatment for hyperkalemia was acquired by AstraZeneca in 2015 for approximately $2.7 billion.

“We are delighted to welcome Ed and Robert to our team. Ed’s proven track record of driving operating and financial performance in high growth private and publicly-traded companies will enhance our ability to create and manage shareholder value. Robert’s insight and leadership in developing non-absorbed drugs to treat cardio-renal disease, and his financial and transactional expertise will be highly beneficial to Allena as we are accelerating development of the first treatment for oxalate disorders,” said Alexey Margolin, PhD, President and CEO of Allena Pharmaceuticals.

“I am thrilled to join the Allena team at this exciting time in the company’s evolution”, said Mr. Wholihan. “Allena has the potential to transform the lives of millions of people worldwide suffering from oxalate disorders, and to reduce healthcare costs accordingly”.

“New treatment options for oxalate disorders are sorely needed. Kidney stones affect millions people in the US and create an enormous economic and societal burden. ALLN-177, Allena’s lead product, has the potential to become the first oxalate-lowering agent,” said Dr. Alexander. “I am looking forward to working with the Allena team on advancing this innovative drug to the patients.

Mr. Wholihan joins Allena after a series of successful CFO roles in high growth healthcare and life science companies. Most recently, he served as CFO of Medical Specialties Distributors (MSD), the leading provider of infusion therapy solutions to home healthcare firms, specialty pharmacies, and oncology practices. Prior to MSD, he was the CFO of Generation Health, a healthcare management company specializing in helping employers and other payors optimize the use of genomic testing. He also served as CFO and Vice President of Business Development for Inovise Medical, a medical device company, and helped lead Preview Systems, a security software and services company, from an emerging growth company through its Initial Public Offering to a successful sale. Early in his career, he spent seven years with McKinsey & Company, where he advised Fortune 1000 corporations on strategic, financial, and operational issues. Ed earned an MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and a BA in Economics from Yale University.

Dr. Alexander is currently CEO of ZS Pharma. Prior to ZS Pharma, Robert was a Director at Alta Partners, a venture capital firm. In addition, he acted as Executive Chairman and interim CEO of SARcode Bioscience. During his time at Alta Partners, he led investments in SARcode Bioscience (acquired by Shire), Allakos, Lumena Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Shire), and ZS Pharma. Prior to Alta Partners, Robert was a Principal in MPM Capital’s BioEquities Fund. Robert joined MPM from Genentech, where he worked in the Business Development group. He holds a PhD in immunology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a bachelor’s degree in zoology from Miami University of Ohio.

About Hyperoxaluria and ALLN-177

Hyperoxaluria is a condition resulting from high oxalate levels in the urine due to either hyper-absorption of oxalate from the diet (secondary) or from overproduction of oxalate by the liver due to a genetic defect (primary). Oxalate is a terminal metabolite that cannot be further degraded by humans and is primarily excreted by the kidneys. Hyperoxaluria can initially cause the development of kidney stones, and may also lead to kidney damage (nephrocalcinosis), chronic kidney disease, end-stage renal disease and dialysis. Calcium oxalate is the most common constituent of kidney stones. There are currently no approved pharmacologic treatments for hyperoxaluria.

ALLN-177 is an orally-administered, recombinant oxalate-degrading enzyme in development for the chronic management of hyperoxaluria and kidney stones (nephrolithiasis). ALLN-177 targets oxalate in the gastrointestinal tract in an effort to reduce the burden of both dietary and endogenously produced oxalate. ALLN-177 has the potential to decrease the oxalate available systemically for deposition as calcium oxalate crystals or stones in the kidneys, as well as reduce the incidence of calcium oxalate related complications. Effective management of hyperoxaluria could reduce long-term kidney complications, as well as the number of interventions required for the management of kidney stones.

About Allena Pharmaceuticals

Allena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is a specialty biopharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercializing non-systemic protein therapeutics to treat metabolic and orphan diseases. Allena is currently conducting two Phase 2 clinical trials of its lead product candidate, ALLN-177, in patients with hyperoxaluria. The company’s technological approach enables the design and development of oral protein therapies that remain in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, where the protein exerts its therapeutic effect by degrading toxic metabolites, without being absorbed into the bloodstream. Led by a proven management team with deep expertise in protein therapeutic design and development, Allena is committed to bringing breakthrough new treatments to patients with unmet medical needs. Based in Newton, MA, the company is supported by a top-tier investor syndicate including Frazier Healthcare, Third Rock Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, HBM Partners, Pharmstandard International S.A., Partner Fund Management, Fidelity Management & Research Company, and other investors. For more information, please visit


Allena Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Janet Giroux, 617-467-4577
Manager of Corporate Operations

Back to news