Samantha Du, Zai Lab CEO (Zai Lab)

Saman­tha Du's Zai Lab sets its am­bi­tions sky high, look­ing to raise $750M to fu­el its li­cens­ing busi­ness mod­el

Look­ing to cap­i­tal­ize on a bustling Chi­nese drug mar­ket, up­start biotechs like Saman­tha Du’s Zai Lab have made a killing in-li­cens­ing for­eign mol­e­cules as well as de­vel­op­ing their own home­grown as­sets. Now, with even more growth in mind, Zai Lab has of­fered up a healthy chunk of shares on the US mar­ket to fu­el its am­bi­tions.

Zai Lab will of­fer $750 mil­lion in US de­pos­i­to­ry shares as part of a ma­jor cash raise to keep dri­ving its in-li­cens­ing busi­ness en­gine as well as ad­vance its suite of clin­i­cal pro­grams, the Chi­nese biotech said this week.

Ac­cord­ing to its 424(b)(f) prospec­tus, Zai Lab will use rough­ly 30% of those pro­ceeds to­ward “cor­po­rate de­vel­op­ment and li­cens­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties,” the biotech said, look­ing to build on its busi­ness mod­el in-li­cens­ing mol­e­cules for use in Chi­na.

So far, that busi­ness plan has proved lu­cra­tive, and Zai Lab has inked big­ger and big­ger li­cens­ing pacts along the way. Back in Jan­u­ary, Du’s com­pa­ny inked a deal with ar­genx worth a cool $175 mil­lion for re­gion­al rights to au­toim­mune drug ef­gar­tigi­mod in Chi­na, Tai­wan, Hong Kong and Macau. In ex­change, ar­genx CEO Tim Van Hauw­er­meiren got $75 mil­lion up­front in Zai Lab stock, an­oth­er $75 mil­lion as a guar­an­tee from Zai Lab for their cost-shar­ing arrange­ment, and an­oth­er $25 mil­lion mile­stone tied to US ap­proval of the late-stage drug.

Zai Lab is al­so the ex­clu­sive Chi­nese li­cense hold­er for Am­gen’s be­mar­ituzum­ab, which just earned the FDA’s break­through des­ig­na­tion in gas­tric can­cer. The mol­e­cule came over as part of Am­gen’s ac­qui­si­tion of Five Prime in March.

In ad­di­tion to adding to its cash pile for po­ten­tial li­cens­es, Zai Lab al­so plans to use a big chunk of its pro­ceeds to ad­vance a suite of drugs through clin­i­cal tri­als — al­lo­cat­ing about 30% of the $750 mil­lion to that ef­fort. One of those projects is a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Novo­cure work­ing on us­ing elec­tri­cal fields to treat non-small cell lung can­cer. The part­ners re­cent­ly scaled back a Phase III tri­al af­ter an in­de­pen­dent da­ta mon­i­tor­ing com­mit­tee saw enough to go on to slow en­roll­ment.

As for the rest of the planned cash raise? Zai Lab will ded­i­cate 20% to ex­pand their com­mer­cial ef­forts, 15% to “en­hance our glob­al pipeline” and about 5% for “work­ing cap­i­tal and oth­er gen­er­al cor­po­rate pur­pos­es,” the biotech said.

Of course, all those lev­els are not set in stone, and Zai Lab is re­serv­ing the right to switch those per­cent­ages around as needs arise — par­tic­u­lar­ly based on progress in the clin­ic.

“Due to the many vari­ables in­her­ent to the de­vel­op­ment of our drug can­di­dates at this time, such as the tim­ing of pa­tient en­roll­ment and evolv­ing reg­u­la­to­ry re­quire­ments, we can­not cur­rent­ly pre­dict the stage of de­vel­op­ment we ex­pect to achieve for our pre-clin­i­cal and clin­i­cal tri­al and drug can­di­dates with the net pro­ceeds of this of­fer­ing,” Zai Lab said.

IDC: Life Sci­ences Firms Must Em­brace Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion Now

Pre-pandemic, the life sciences industry had settled into a pattern. The average drug took 12 years and $2.9 billion to bring to market, and it was an acceptable mode of operations, according to Nimita Limaye, Research Vice President for Life Sciences R&D Strategy and Technology at IDC.

COVID-19 changed that, and served as a proof-of-concept for how technology can truly help life sciences companies succeed and grow, Limaye said. She recently spoke about industry trends at Egnyte’s Life Sciences Summit 2022. You should watch the entire session, free and on-demand, but here’s a brief recap of why she’s urging life sciences companies to embrace digital transformation.

Martin Landray, Protas CEO (Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Those big bil­lion-dol­lar PhI­II stud­ies? Mar­tin Lan­dray says they can be done for a tiny frac­tion of the cost

Martin Landray knows what controversy in clinical drug development feels like, from first-hand experience.

Landray was the chief architect of RECOVERY, a study that pitted a variety of drugs against Covid-19. And he offered some landmark data that would help push dexamethasone out into broader use as a cheap treatment, while helping ice hydroxy’s reputation as a clear misfire.

“Lots of people told us we shouldn’t use it,” Landray says about dexamethasone and Covid-19. “It was dangerous. We shouldn’t even do a trial. They also cared about hydroxychloroquine and lots of people said we shouldn’t do a trial because it must be used. I’ve got the letters from both sets of people.”

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FDA ap­proves one of the prici­est new treat­ments of all time — blue­bird's gene ther­a­py for be­ta tha­lassemia

The FDA on Wednesday approved the first gene therapy for a chronic condition — bluebird bio’s new Zynteglo (beti-cel) as a potentially curative treatment for those with transfusion-dependent thalassemia.

The thumbs-up from the FDA follows a unanimous adcomm vote in June, with outside experts pointing to extraordinary efficacy, with 89% of subjects with TDT who received beti-cel having achieved transfusion independence.

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Geoffrey Porges, new Schrödinger CFO

Long­time an­a­lyst Ge­of­frey Porges de­parts SVB to lead fi­nances at a drug dis­cov­ery shop

Geoffrey Porges has ended his two-decade run as a biotech analyst, as the former SVB Securities vice chair began as CFO of Schrödinger on Thursday.

The long-running analyst, who previously headed up vaccines marketing at Merck before the turn of the millennium, will lead the financial operations of the 700-employee company as Schrödinger broadens its focus from a drug discovery partner to also building out an in-house pipeline, with clinical trial No. 1 set to begin next quarter.

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Joel Dudley, new partner at Innovation Endeavors (Bosch Health Campus)

For­mer Google CEO’s VC is mak­ing a big­ger push in­to the biotech world, hir­ing promi­nent Ther­a­nos skep­tic

Venture capital firm Innovation Endeavors has mainly had its focus on investments across the tech space, but it has been slowly turning its attention to the biotech world. Now, a new partner is coming into the fold showing that its interest in biotech is likely to grow further.

The Silicon Valley-based company, which is headed up by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, has brought on Joel Dudley as a partner. According to Dudley’s LinkedIn page, he is joining Innovation Endeavors after serving as the chief science officer of biotech startup Tempus Labs since 2020.

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James Sabry, Roche global head of pharma partnering

Roche, Genen­tech plunk down $60M up­front to part­ner with Chi­nese phar­ma on PRO­TAC-based prostate can­cer drug

Roche and Genentech are always on the hunt for deals, and on Thursday they found their newest partner.

The pair will team up with the Chinese pharma company Jemincare to push forward a new program for prostate cancer, the companies announced. Roche is ponying up $60 million upfront to get its hands on the candidate and promising up to $590 million in biobucks, plus royalties, down the line.

In return, Genentech will get a worldwide license to develop the program, known as JMKX002992, and bring it to market.

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Andrew Hopkins, Exscientia CEO

Ex­sci­en­tia ter­mi­nates Bay­er pact half a year ear­ly, col­lect­ing small por­tion of €240M promised

Bayer and Exscientia are winding down their three-year collaboration, leaving the big German pharma to take the AI-designed compounds born out of the pact further.

London-based Exscientia revealed in its Q2 update that the partners have “mutually agreed to end” their collaboration, which kicked off in early 2020, after recently achieving a drug discovery milestone. In an SEC filing, Exscientia said it terminated the pact on May 30, about six months early.

Bayer's first DTC ad campaign for chronic kidney disease drug Kerendia spells out its benefits

Bay­er aims to sim­pli­fy the com­plex­i­ties of CKD with an ABC-themed ad cam­paign

Do you know the ABCs of CKD in T2D? Bayer’s first ad campaign for Kerendia tackles the complexity of chronic kidney disease with a play on the acronym (CKD) and its connection to type 2 diabetes (T2D).

Kerendia was approved last year as the first and only non-steroidal mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist to treat CKD in people with type 2 diabetes.

In the TV commercial launched this week, A is for awareness, B is for belief and C is for cardiovascular, explained in the ad as awareness of the connection between type 2 and kidney disease, belief that something can be done about it, and cardiovascular events that may be reduced with treatment.

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James Mock, incoming CFO at Moderna

Mod­er­na taps new CFO from PerkinElmer af­ter for­mer one-day CFO oust­ed

When Moderna hired a new CFO last year,  it didn’t expect to see him gone after only one day. Today the biotech named his — likely much more vetted — replacement.

The mRNA company put out word early Wednesday that after the untimely departure of then brand-new CFO Jorge Gomez, it has now found a replacement in James Mock, the soon-to-be former CFO at diagnostics and analytics company PerkinElmer.

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