No More Licensing: NY Biotech Company Zentalis Raises US$20M To Fund Chinese Venture


The joint venture Zentera will develop and commercialize Zentalis’ pipeline candidates in China

New York-headquartered clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company Zentalis Pharmaceuticals has closed a Series A round at $20 million to fund the establishment of joint venture Zentera Therapeutics, the company announced in a statement earlier this week.

Zentalis will hold majority stakes in Shanghai-headquartered biopharma venture Zentera, and Chairman and CEO of Zentalis Anthony Sun, MD, will also serve as Zentera’s chief executive, the statement added.

Sun pointed out in the statement that the launch of Zentera served as a milestone for Zentalis’ global clinical development strategy. He added that the company was also building a management team of ‘seasoned professionals’ in China.

“As the second-largest pharmaceutical market in the world, establishing a joint venture in China is the first step toward advancing our product candidates on a global scale,” he noted.

The financing round was led by Hong Kong-based equity investment firm Tybourne Capital Management (TCM), with participation from healthcare fund OrbiMed Asia, the statement said.

Managing Director and Co-Head of Private Equity at TCM, Bosun Hau said in the statement, “Over the past few years, we have watched Zentalis’ remarkable clinical progress in developing potentially best-in-class candidates for patients with cancer. We are pleased to work with Zentera, as we believe these therapies will greatly benefit patients internationally.”

The statement noted that the Series A would help fund the development and commercialization of three cancer therapies from Zentalis, which focuses on small molecule therapeutics targeting cancer pathways, as well as future candidates from the company in China.

Pipeline oral candidates that Zentera will be developing in China are selective estrogen receptor degrader (SERD) ZN-c5 for breast cancer, DNA damage response protein WEE1 inhibitor ZN-c3 for solid tumors, and B-cell lymphoma 2 (BCL-2) inhibitor ZN-d5 for hematologic malignancies.

Of these, both ZN-c5 and ZN-c3 have reached the initial clinical trial stage. Zentalis has applied for Investigational New Drug (IND) permissions for ZN-d5 with the United States (U.S.) Food and Drug Administration, and plans to launch the Phase 1 trial of ZN-d5 in the first half of 2021.

Zentalis also has a fourth pipeline candidate ZN-e4, an oral mutant epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) small molecule inhibitor. Rights to develop and commercialize this particular candidate have been licensed to California-based specialty pharmaceutical company SciClone Pharmaceuticals in China, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Zentalis made headlines earlier this year when it went public with an initial public offering (IPO) in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which crushed global markets and forced many to defer planned IPOs.

The IPO grossed $190 million, with 10,557,000 shares offered at $18 per share. After deduction of underwriters’ options, its net amount at $165 million still surpassed the $100 million figure it had filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission prior to the IPO.

In December 2019, Zentalis had also raked in $85 million in a Series C financing round, raised only three months before going public. Matrix Capital, Viking Global Investors, Redmile Group, Farallon Capital, Perceptive Advisors, Surveyor Capital and Eventide Asset Management participated in the round.

Header image by Anna Shvets from Pexels


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