#WeareCvilleBioHub: Kimberly Kelly, Founder and CEO, ZielBio

What is the mission of ZielBio?

Our mission is to improve patient lives by discovering cancer’s Achilles heel. We really want to be innovative and figure out what drives cancer and then develop therapies that will target that.

What are you focusing on currently?

ZielBio develops technology that will help us win the fight against cancer and save the lives of patients. To do that, we develop platform technology that allows us to query proteins in their native context with the goal of unlocking new insights about cancer. The more we know about the inner workings of cancer cells, the more we can pinpoint our solutions and make them more effective. Currently, we are excited to be enrolling patients in the first-in-human clinical trial of our proprietary antibody ZB131 against cancer specific plectin, a solid tumor cancer target identified through ZielFind.

How important is it to have a vision when you’re running a company?

Vision is everything. Early on, I received an offer to sell the company, but it would’ve meant giving up my role leading the company. I was thankful for the offer, but I have a vision for where this company can go, and I decided to stay true to that vision so we can develop many innovative products rather than just one. I’m glad I stayed true to that vision.

What are you most proud of?

I’m very proud that we’ve raised over $25 million and I’m proud of our team that was able to quickly and expertly advance ZB131 to approval as an investigational new drug and into the clinic. That initial raise enables us to get through the safety phase of clinical development and add the talent we need to strengthen our executive team. I’ve spent a lot of time this past year building our team and giving them everything they need to be effective.

What inspires you each day?

Each day, I’m excited to find out what we don’t know. New answers to old questions drive our innovation and brings us one step closer to discovering cancer’s Achilles heel so we can help cancer patients live longer, healthier lives.

What advice do you have for other founders seeking funding?

When you’re out there raising funds, you’re going to get a lot of rejection, more rejection than you’ve ever received in your life. But just keep going. It took me a little while, but I learned the data is not as important as the vision. Your story, your narrative, has to resonate with people. It also takes time. It took me over a year to raise our first round. For other founders, it takes even more time. And then there’s always the next round, so be patient and stay focused.

Where have you found help along the way?

The CvilleBioHub ecosystem has been great for our development. They have helped us make important connections. What I’ve found is that those in the community, whether they’re new or have been here since the beginning, are incredibly generous. They share their time, give us new ideas, and provide access to their networks without expecting anything in return.