President and Chief Executive Officer
Robert Connelly has 30+ years of experience starting, financing, building and leading companies in the life sciences sector. He is the former CEO of Domantis, Pulmatrix, and WikiCell Designs, and has served as Chairman of the Board for Aero Designs and as a Director for Pulmatrix and Rainier Wines. He has raised over $250 million in private financing for his companies and led numerous transactions including license, platform, drug discovery, co-development, government and foundation, and M&A partnerships and has launched many innovative products during his career. He also serves as Venture Partner with Flagship Pioneering.
Connelly began his career with the Medical Diagnostics Division of Abbott Laboratories, spending 11+ years in sales, marketing and management positions. After leaving Abbott in 1994, he spent six years with BioVeris (formerly IGEN International; acquired by Roche for $1.6 billion) in the roles of Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing and General Manager of IGEN’s Life Sciences unit. Connelly led IGEN’s efforts to develop, market and license novel detection technologies utilized in medical diagnostics and drug discovery. He had a central role in IGEN’s financing activities that raised more than $150 million in public financing during his tenure.
In 2001, Connelly became the founding CEO and first employee of Domantis, a private UK-based biotechnology company founded by world-renowned scientist entrepreneurs Ian Tomlinson and Greg Winter. Domantis created a novel fully-human antibody fragment platform (domain antibodies-DABs), growing into a 75-person organization with operations in the UK and USA, novel therapeutic programs in cancer, respiratory and autoimmune indications, and seven therapeutic partnerships before being acquired by Glaxo SmithKline in 2007 for $454 million in cash, the largest all-cash valuation paid for a preclinical biotechnology company.
In 2007, Connelly was appointed CEO of Pulmatrix (NASD:PULM), a pharmaceutical company developing inhaled drugs for respiratory diseases including chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and cystic fibrosis (CF). During his tenure, Pulmatrix moved several lead candidates into clinical trials in patients with asthma, CF and COPD and developed a next generation platform for formulating drugs for inhaled delivery (iSPERSE). In 2012, Connelly co-founded WikiCell Designs with Pulmatrix Founder David Edwards to utilize biotechnology tools to develop sustainable, edible forms of packaging for food, beverage and nutrition products. In 2013 WikiCell Designs merged with Aero Designs to form Quantum Designs.
Q&A with Bob
Who is your role model?
My brothers and sisters in terms of who they are as people, human beings, parents and how successful they have been professionally having come from simple beginnings.
What is your greatest non-professional accomplishment?
My children; I am extremely proud of their accomplishments. Our experience as a family—both immediate and extended— with special needs, including autism, drives my efforts to help patients and families in need.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were younger?
The importance of work-life balance. While I don’t necessarily have it, I certainly strive for it. And I’m working hard to create a culture at Axcella where employees can achieve it.
Best Axcella perk?
It’s a tie between Birthday Breakfasts and our world famous Halloween Party.
Is that a serious question? Michael Connelly!!