Norwegian biotech startup fights children’s bleeding disorder
There is a lot of activity in the health sector in Norway. One example is the recent startup Prophylix Pharma that is developing a medicine to combat a bleeding disorder in infants that is often fatal. The company’s concept was just bought by the American company, Rallybio, in Farmington, Conn. This was made possible by a recent funding round securing $37 million, with lead financing from 5AM Ventures, Cayman Partners, New Leaf Venture Partners, and Connecticut Innovation from the public sector.
Prophylix is a Norwegian biotech company headquartered in Tromsø and owner of its U.S. subsidiary Prophylix Pharma Inc. The startup is developing new prophylaxes that protect babies at risk from fetal and neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia (FNAIT). FNAIT is a condition caused by tissue incompatibility between a mother and her child and can lead to severe brain damage and death in fetuses and severe illness and often mortality in newborns. The planned treatment will be administered as a single dose injection to the mother immediately after delivery. The treatment has the potential to prevent development of FNAIT in subsequent pregnancies. According to a Prophylix press release, Rallybio obtained “two orphan drug programs, NAITgam and a follow-on therapy. NAITgam is a plasma-derived HPA-1a antibody in early clinical development for the treatment of FNAIT.”
“I am incredibly proud of the achievements of the Prophylix team, and team of researchers who developed this technology, headed by Professor Bjørn Skogen at UiT – the Arctic University of Norway and at the National Unit for Platelet Immunology at the University Hospital of North Norway,” said Søren Weis Dahl, CEO of Prophylix, in the press release. “We are pleased with the progress we were able to make in advancing these two potential preventive therapies for FNAIT, and we believe that Rallybio’s vast experience in developing therapies for the treatment of rare diseases will ensure that NAITgam is successfully brought to patients in need.”
“We believe that NAITgam has the potential to eradicate FNAIT, saving babies from the debilitating and potentially catastrophic outcomes associated with this disease,” said Martin Mackay, chair and CEO of Rallybio. “We thank the Prophylix team for putting a spotlight on this terrible disease and we look forward to using our expertise in rare disease, drug development to bring NAITgam as rapidly as possible to pregnant women at risk for FNAIT.”
The company started in 2006 when founder, Skogen, received the first prize of NOK 10,000 at the Research Days (Forskningsdagene) competition in Tromsø. He is a professor at the University in Tromsø and senior consultant at the University Hospital. Karl-Johan Jakola is the chair of the board of directors. He has been heavily involved in business development and as an investor in startups in northern Norway.
The company was established in 2008 by Norinnova Technology Transfer, the University Hospital of North Norway and Oslo University Hospital, Ullevål. The scientific basis of the startup is a collaborative research activity conducted by scientists at the universities. Among the investors are Sarsia Seed, the seed fund Norinnova Invest, and the Trond Mohn Foundation.
The idea behind the American company Rallybio is to identify and accelerate development of transformative breakthrough therapies for patients with severe and rare disorders. The company was incorporated in 2018. They want to continue to expand with drug acquisitions and development capabilities through the assembly of a team of individuals with an outstanding track record in pharmaceutical research and development. This allows them to find and rate assets using a series of robust clinical and commercial felters that allow them to identify and acquire a portfolio of high-quality small molecule and protein-based assets in the late discovery to early clinical stages of drug development. The company has been named the most promising private biotech startup of the year.
Rallybio is based at the University of Connecticut’s Technology Incubation Program. The founders are experienced leaders from the biopharma industry with a wide breadth of research, development, and financial experience.
Their Norwegian adventure might be a future blockbuster in medicine.
Rasmus Falck is a strong innovation and entrepreneurship advocate. The author of “What do the best do better” and “The board of directors as a resource in SME,” he received his master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He currently lives in Oslo, Norway.
This article originally appeared in the November 1, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.