Zai Lab Of Shanghai Raises Over $30 Million In Series A Funding

Published: Aug 27, 2014

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ZAI Lab Of Shanghai Raises Over $30 Million In Series A Funding

ZAI Laboratory, Inc., an innovative drug startup based in Shanghai, has raised more than $30 million from an international group of healthcare investors including Qiming, KPCB and Sequoia. ZAI's founder and CEO is Dr. Samantha Du, previously founder and CEO of Hutchison MediPharma, who led healthcare investments at Sequoia Capital in China prior to launching ZAI Lab earlier this year. Dr. Du told ChinaBio® Today that ZAI, which roughly translates to “one more time,” will adopt a semi-virtual business model to develop a pipeline of five or six drug candidates with the intent of repeating the management team’s past success in China.

Elaborating on ZAI's plans, Dr. Du said the company, at least initially, will in-license prospective drugs addressing unmet medical needs in either the global or China/Asia markets. In most cases, ZAI will advance its projects through Phase II before finding partners, although in some cases it may complete clinical development. The company, which will limit its staffing to about 50 in the near term, will focus on novel medicines in the areas of oncology, autoimmune disorders and anti-infectives.

Earlier this month, ZAI Lab announced its first in-licensing transaction. It acquired global rights for two Sanofi (NYSE: SNY) drug candidates that treat chronic respiratory diseases (see story). Sanofi has completed all of the pre-clinical work on the two molecules.

The Series A funding was led by Qiming Venture Partners and joined by KPCB, Sequoia Capital and TF Capital (which includes Tigermed and other healthcare companies). The capital will be used to support ZAI Lab’s clinical development programs as well as its in-licensing activities.

In a statement, Dr. Du added: “We are gratified to have received such strong financial support from this exceptional group of investors. This financing will take the company into an exciting growth phase and we believe that ZAI’s future products will benefit millions of patients worldwide.”

Nisa Leung, managing partner of Qiming Ventures, said: “ZAI Lab is the leading innovative drug development company in China today. Led by Dr. Samantha Du, ZAI has an experienced management team with strong track record in China and globally. I have known this team for many years and they have unwavering support from the investment syndicate to build a global biotech powerhouse based in China”

Dr. Du also told ChinaBio® Today that she believes that ZAI Lab’s primary strengths are:

1) A very strong development team;

2) A proven track record; and

3) Access to and experience with strong local partners.

Before joining ZAI, its leadership team was involved in the launch of over half a dozen drugs globally. In China, they have successfully taken five novel drug candidates into clinical trials, pioneered new regulatory channels, secured regulatory approvals in record time, conducted multiple IND trials in the US, and brought the first China-discovered drug into Global Phase III trials.

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