With clinical trials lined up for Zentalis drugs, China's Zentera sets its sights on more dealmaking and an IPO
As Zentalis geared up for an AACR presentation of early data on its WEE1 inhibitor earlier this year, its Chinese joint venture Zentera wasn’t idle, either.
Zentera, which has headquarters in Shanghai, had already nabbed clearance to start clinical trials in China for three of the parent company’s drugs. In May — just a month after Zentalis touted three “exceptional responses” out of 55 patients for their shared lead drug, ZN-c3 — it got a fourth CTA approval.
To fund all those trials, the crew has returned to the venture well and come up with $75 million.
Founding investors OrbiMed Advisors Asia and Tybourne Capital Management led the Series B. The syndicate features some well-known names, including some crossover players: Avidity Partners, Casdin Capital, Surveyor Capital (a Citadel company), Farallon Capital Management, Lilly Asia Ventures, Logos Capital, Perceptive Advisors, Redmile Group and Viking Global Investors. An IPO in Hong Kong is on the horizon for 2022.
“(W)e plan to utilize the proceeds to advance and expand our pipeline of candidates, with two ongoing clinical trials and plans to have one more trial ongoing by year-end,” said Anthony Sun, CEO of both Zentalis and Zentera.
When Sun — a longtime VC at Aisling Capital before moving to the biotech frontlines — started Zentera last May, he described the move as part of Zentalis’ global clinical development strategy, claiming a bigger say in when and how its drugs would move through in the clinic in China than it would if it had taken the more popular path of enlisting a Chinese partner. He put together a JV and got a $20 million Series A going.
But Zentera was set up as a standalone entity, albeit one largely controlled by Zentalis, for a reason. In addition to funding the clinical development of the WEE1 inhibitor ZN-c3, the oral SERD ZN-c5 and the BCL-2 inhibitor ZN-d5, the biotech says it will use the new cash on hand to source cancer drug candidates from other drugmakers — for either Chinese or global rights.