China's ZAI Lab's novel push gets help with $100M-plus in Series B funding

ZAI Lab CEO Samantha Du

Shanghai-based ZAI Lab raised a bit more than $100 million in a Series B round, led by Advantech Capital, and including OrbiMed, in a syndicate that joined existing investors Qiming Ventures, Sequoia Capital China and TF Capital that will bolster its novel drug push.

The biotech, led by Samantha Du, has in-licensed oncology candidates from Sanofi ($SNY) and Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) and South Korea's Hanmi in the clinic or on the path as well as an autoimmune candidate from Belgium's UCB and is at work on in-house drug discovery.

The funds will be used to push the novel program further along in the next few years, a company executive said to FiercePharmaAsia, adding that recent steps bolstered the effort.

In October of last year, the company partnered with the Tsinghua University Immunology Institute on R&D to discover and develop new drugs at a dedicated center at Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park in Shanghai.

The same month, it hired James Yan as executive vice president and head of early development and drug safety from Hutchison China MediTech, or Chi-Med, a unit of Hutchison MediPharma where Du previously was founder and CEO. Yan has worked in nonclinical drug development of small molecules and biologics.

The funding builds on a $30 million A round in 2014.

"This financing will allow ZAI to further capitalize on the rapid growing opportunity in China and to bring transformative treatments to patients with highly unmet medical needs," Du said in a statement.

Du spoke to FierceBiotech last year in a profile as one of the top women in biotech and noted that China has witnessed a number of new players in the space in the past two years, with many focused on oncology.

Innovent Biologics which raised $100 million at the start of 2015, deepened its oncology push with Eli Lilly ($LLY) in October by including immuno-oncology bispecific antibodies.

The same month BeiGene said it would look to raise as much as $100 million on the Nasdaq in an initial public offering following a stream of venture capital to the oncology-focused biotech.

- here's the release

Special Report: Top women in biopharma 2015 - Samantha Du, ZAI Lab