From Hong Kong to Boston, New Biopharma Launches with Immune-based Pipeline
Zenas BioPharma announced it has launched a cross-border biopharmaceutical company based in both China and the U.S. The company plans to become a global leader in immune-based therapies as it rapidly advances seven pipeline programs, including three best-in-class programs focused on autoimmune disorders and rare diseases.
Tellus BioVentures and Fairmount Funds Management founded and initially funded Zenas. Additional financial backing comes from a syndicate of global life sciences investment funds, including WuXi Biologics Healthcare Ventures, Quan Capital and Wellington Management.
Zenas’ Managing Member of Tellus and Founder, Lonnie Moulder, will serve as executive chairman and interim chief executive officer of the company.
“We are excited about the launch of Zenas BioPharma and its pipeline of differentiated product candidates,” said Moulder. “These potentially best-in-class products are intended to bring innovation to patients with underserved diagnoses while also maximizing value across the healthcare ecosystem. The expanding Zenas leadership team and our network of business partners will drive operational excellence to deliver potentially transformative therapies to improve the lives of people living with autoimmune and rare diseases.”
Zenas launched with a pipeline of seven immune-based treatments; the company owns the global rights for three of the pipeline programs. Zenas’ lead product candidate ZB001 is an insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor (IGF1R) monoclonal antibody (mAb) that has been developed for the potential treatment of thyroid eye disease in China.
The mAb ZB001 was exclusively in-licensed by Zenas from Viridian Therapeutics, a privately held biotechnology company acquired by miRagen Therapeutics in October of last year.
Over 100 patients with cancer have been treated with ZB001 in European and U.S. studies under the name of AVE-1642. These studies have helped the company gain insight into the agent’s pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profile, in addition to its safety and tolerability profiles.
The program is reportedly advancing quickly, with Viridian expecting to file an Investigational New Drug application in late 2021. Additionally, data from the first trial of the mAb is expected for some time in 2022. Concurrently, Zenas and Viridian also launched a program to develop ZB011, which the companies’ hope will improve the advancement of IGF1R-targeted antibodies.
Three additional potentially best-in-class mAbs from Zenas have been exclusively in-licensed from Xencor for the development of established and new autoimmune disease indications. Zenas has also entered into a collaboration agreement with Dianthus Therapeutics, an agreement which provides China rights for ZB005 and ZB006, two mAb programs.
Xencor has previously entered a collaborative agreement with MorphoSys and Incyte to advance its mAb bispecific antibody plamotamab, a potential monotherapy for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The company also entered into a license agreement with Vir Biotechnology in March 2020 for the use of Zencor’s technology to development investigational antibody treatments for COVID-19.
“We are thrilled to invest in and support this new venture lead by a proven and experienced team,” said Marietta Wu, MD, Ph.D., MBA, Managing Director at Quan Capital and Zenas Board Member, in a statement. “Immunology is an area of transformative innovation poised to solve great unmet medical needs. We are confident that by leveraging cross border research and development capabilities and resources, Zenas will rapidly advance its current portfolio and establish its global leadership with an expanded pipeline coupled with a strong footprint in China.”