Pfizer-partnered Zentalis woos new CEO, cobbles together $200M
Ready to transform itself into a serious mid- to late-stage cancer player that could take on rivals as big as AstraZeneca, a Pfizer-partnered biotech is embracing some big changes.
Eli Lilly vet Kim Blackwell is succeeding Anthony Sun as CEO of Zentalis. Sun, a former VC at Aisling who co-founded Zentalis in 2015, will remain at the helm of its Asia-focused joint venture, Zentera.
Blackwell’s mandate will be to speed up the development of the two lead candidates. Zentalis has also raised $200 million from an underwritten offering that priced its stock at $19.38 per share.
That number marked a further discount to the deal Pfizer wrangled just a few weeks ago, when Zentalis shares were already bruised in the wake of underwhelming AACR data. But the biotech clearly believes the cash grab is necessary to create, in chairman Dave Johnson’s words, “long-term value.”
Just like Blackwell’s appointment, it’s all about pushing Zentalis’ Wee1 inhibitor ZN-c3 and BCL-2 inhibitor ZN-d5 full speed ahead.
Interim results presented months ago suggest that ZN-c3 has similar efficacy to AstraZeneca’s Wee1 inhibitor — which seemed to make investors wary, even though an analyst tried to find a bright spot in the tolerability data.
It is now up to Blackwell to find a path forward. She has served as a board director of Zentalis since 2020. Prior to the current appointment, she held a brief stint as CMO at Tempus, a software maker focused on precision medicine.
“Since joining the Board, Kim has played a key role in executing Zentalis’ clinical strategy and has assisted in advancing the development of its differentiated oncology therapeutics,” Johnson said. “As Zentalis focuses its resources on its Wee1 inhibitor ZN-c3 and BCL-2 inhibitor ZN-d5, Kim’s strong background in cancer drug development will enable us to rapidly accelerate our clinical strategy.”