Zhan Zhengyun brings innovation back to motherland
Zhan Zhengyun, founder and chairman of Shanghai-based Zannan SciTech Co, has been selected among the first batch of Leading Talents in Shanghai’s Minhang district, the first batch of Shanghai’s Pujiang Talent Program, Shanghai’s Leading Talent, as well as the country’s Recruitment Program of Global Experts.
The honors were awarded due to Zhan’s excellent overseas education and work experience, and the achievements he has made after returning to China to start up his own business.In 1988, Zhan went to the US for further study, receiving a doctorate degree in organic chemistry at the University of Chicago, followed by completing post-doctoral research on antiviral drugs at the California Institute of Technology.
Zhan has worked at the lab of Professor Sharpless, a Nobel Prize winner, at the Scripps Research Institute to carry out research on asymmetric catalytic reaction; at the Schering-Plough Research Institute to do R&D on anti-carcinogens and antibiotics; and as a senior researcher at the Array BioPharmato for R&D on new medicine.
The more than two decades’ overseas education and work experience has made him a top professional in the R&D of new medicine and new materials.
Inspired by the entrepreneurship boom in the US at the end of 1990s and attracted by China’s stronger national power, better entrepreneurship environment and preferential policies, Zhan decided to return to the motherland to start up his own business in 2003.
Zhan chose the Shenzhuang Industry Park in Shanghai’s Minhang district as the location for his company due to the area’s focus on high-tech startups and considerable services in office space, project application, organizing exchange activities, and preferential policies.
Zhan’s new company, Zannan SciTech Co, focuses on developing new materials. In just one year, Zhan and his team developed the high-efficient Zhan Catalyst, ending the long-term monopoly of Grubbs' catalyst, used in synthetic organic chemistry.
With continuous development and optimization, the Zhan Catalyst’s performance has matched the Grubbs' catalyst, and so the company applied for a patent for it in the first half of 2005. Several months later, the Grubbs' catalyst won the Nobel Prize, which brought many opportunities for Zhan’s Catalyst to enter the market. Some top international pharmaceutical enterprises such as Abbott Laboratories and Merck Group soon used the Zhan Catalyst to develop and produce new medicine.
Another prominent product developed by Zhan’s team is Hydrogenated Nitrile Butadiene Rubber (HNBR), a new material widely applied in timing belts and seals in automobiles, as well as being used as a sealing material in mining, aerospace, rail, and military industries.
By 2015, the company built a HNBR production line with yearly output of 2,000 tons, ending the three decades’ market domination of Japan’s Zeon Corp and Germany’s Lanxess Group.
Lanxess has tried to buy the patent right of HNBR but has been firmly refused by Zhan who said the product realizes the localization of key strategic materials and helps change the long-time situation of Chinese companies. In the past Chinese companies had no choice but to buy such materials overseas at a high price. Zhan’s product will benefit China’s middle and downstream enterprises.
In addition to Zannan SciTech Co, Zhan also established Aibo Pharma Co to study and produce new medicine. The company is currently working on a new drug to cure the hepatitis C virus. Progress has been made over the past several years, with a candidate compound for the new drug developed.
Thanks to its achievements, Zhan’s company was selected as a post-doctoral base in Shanghai in 2005, the first of its kind in Minhang district, nurturing many post-doctoral researchers.
Zhan said that Zannan would be one of the best companies to attract overseas students based on its research innovation and technological industrialization.