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ZAI Lab of Shanghai In-licenses Two Respiratory Drugs from Sanofi

publication date: Aug 12, 2014
author/source: Richard Daverman, PhD

ZAI Lab Limited, a novel drug development company located in Shanghai, broke out of stealth mode by announcing a major deal: the company has obtained global rights for two novel compounds from Sanofi (NYSE: SNY), both of which are potential treatments for chronic respiratory diseases. ZAI is led by Dr. Samantha Du, who founded the company and serves as CEO. For ten years, Dr. Du was CEO of Hutchinson MediPharma, one of China’s very first innovative drug development companies. Since 2012, Dr. Du has been a Venture Partner of Sequoia Capital China.

ZAI’s newly in-licensed compounds have completed their pre-clinical development. ZAI will be responsible for all further development costs, while Sanofi will be paid milestones (development and approval), along with tiered royalties from global net sales. Further details were not disclosed.

Sanofi was developing the drugs as treatments for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

Dr. Du said in a statement: “ZAI Lab’s vision is to develop innovative medicines that can treat patients with serious medical conditions including chronic respiratory diseases. Chronic respiratory diseases such as COPD and asthma are becoming a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in China with no effective treatments. By working with Sanofi, ZAI Lab intends to initiate the development activities to bring effective therapies to patients globally.”

Chronic respiratory diseases are a major problem globally and a growing problem in China. According to WHO, chronic respiratory diseases are the second leading cause of death in China, caused by a combination of tobacco smoking and high levels of air pollution. People with respiratory disease are particularly susceptible to lung infections, which are a major factor for China’s healthcare costs.

Data compiled by ChinaBio® shows the prevalence of respiratory diseases (especially asthma and COPD) in China:

  • More than 40 million Chinese over the age of 40 currently suffer from COPD (Ministry of Health);
  • COPD will cause 65 million deaths between 2003 and 2033 (Lancet);
  • COPD drug sales are growing at about 6%/year, and are projected to exceed $350 million in 2020 (Datamonitor).

Disclosure: none.


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