halioua began 2020 Funding totaling $5.1million Rosen received fluffy puppy dogs in company bandanas from her investors as thanks. The office was located near downtown San Francisco. However, she leased it in March. That month saw the Bay Area become the first to be under pandemic lockdown. Her company’s formative months, and first hires, took place via Zoom, Slack, and eventually socially distanced meetups. Halioua also raised $6 million more and hired veterinarians and scientists to help get new drugs through the FDA.
She embraced the role of dog company CEO—painting a mural of a giant German shepherd in Loyal’s office and ordering shirts with the slogan “Save the dogs, save the world.” She adopted a fluffy white husky named Wolfie, whom she has described as her cofounder and Loyal’s chief evangelist. According to her, Oxford was a major influence on how she managed her team. To convince her staff that she is straight with them, she pairs her opinions with evidence when talking to her colleagues about her goals and beliefs. “Even if you don’t trust me, you still know this is true,” she says.
Halioua’s new science team, including a scientist who previously led aging research at pharma giant Regeneron, helped refine her original idea. The team identified a compound that they thought could be administered to large breed dogs, like French mastiffs. This would delay the accelerated aging process. A second compound was discovered that could be used to target cognitive decline in large breeds of older dogs, as well as kidney disease.
Halioua began to notice patterns in the business relationships as her company grew. She tried to recruit women investors but found it difficult because there weren’t many to ask. Some investors would attempt to turn a meeting with her into a date and some others would explain the science she already knew. Mostly she brushed off such moments—her time at Oxford had lowered her expectations of those with more power and prestige than her.
It was not uncommon for her to feel different. Describing herself as an “Oxford dropout” helped convince people to take her seriously—never mind that she had left her PhD in part due to dissatisfaction with a harassment investigation, a circumstance missing from the dropout tales of archetypal boy geniuses like Mark Zuckerberg. She listened to hundreds of Silicon Valley podcasts to try to learn the industry’s patois. She trained herself to smile less and wrote in a blog post aimed at women entrepreneurs: “I come off as more of a grump now, but I am a grump who has the money she needs to build her company.”
In the spring of 2021, Halioua published a blog post about her Oxford PhD supervisor titled “The Gifts of My Harasser,” leaving him nameless. One of her worst experiences, she said, was a paradox that taught her how to distrust institutional power and social hierarchies. “It’s been two years since I left. I am not broken anymore, but I still feel the cracks,” she wrote. “His abuse shattered my preconceived notions of how the world worked and cleared a path I otherwise never would have found.”