Zhen Huang Cao

Zhen Huang Cao

Consultant - PhD

Zhen is a life sciences consultant supporting a range of partnering and business development assignments.


Zhen is a life science business development consultant with experience in search and evaluation of early stage assets, market and competitive landscape assessment, financial modelling and transactional support, and identification of strategic alliances for biotech and pharma to facilitate in-licensing and out-licensing of various technologies.
In her earlier work as a researcher, Zhen developed research strategies in neurobiology and metabolism, leading to high-impact publications, including in Nature and Cell. Zhen has a Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Cambridge, and a B.A. in Biological Sciences (with a specialization in Neuroscience) and Psychology from the University of Chicago.

Current Projects

Search and Evaluation
Zhen provides regional and world-wide asset search and evaluation support for multiple biotech and pharmaceutical companies in various therapeutic areas, including oncology, inflammatory disease, fibrosis, infectious disease, neurodegenerative disorders, and reproductive and women’s health. The work involves identifying potential industry partners and assets of interest through various sources, networking with industry and academic contacts, and performing initial reviews of assets of interest to ensure fit with client mandates. In addition, Zhen conducts partnering meetings on behalf of clients at both local and global industry conferences.

Market and Competitive Landscape Assessment
For several companies and universities, Zhen has conducted market and competitive landscape assessments to guide the business and product development strategies of their products. 
Recent projects have included:

  • Comprehensive competitive landscape analysis of the CAR-T cell therapy space, including in-depth analysis of top clinical assets and overview of key issues still to be addressed in the field. Zhen continues to provide ongoing competitive landscape monitoring of this space.
  • Market and competitive landscape analysis of several small molecule oncology assets. This included an analysis of current standards of care and unmet needs in proposed lead indications, epidemiology and patient population forecasts, market trends, and positioning of the assets in the competitive landscape.

Business Development
Zhen also provides general business development support for various clients. Recent and ongoing work includes:

    • Supported the business development team of a biotech company in the gene therapy space with their licensing negotiations for manufacturing IP, securing technologies needed for further development of their assets.
    • Performed a due diligence on the investment opportunity for a private investment firm.
    • Created a risk-adjusted valuation model for an oncology biotech company in partnering discussions and modelled several different deal structures to help probe and explore the deal terms on offer.
    • Zhen is currently acting as a part-time Business Development Manager for a biotech company in the cell therapy space. Zhen provides the management team with ongoing business strategy and development support, in anticipation of upcoming financing and partnering discussions.


      • University of Cambridge, Ph.D. in Pharmacology
      • University of Chicago, B.A in Biological Sciences with a specialization in Neuroscience; B.A in Psychology


        • Huang Cao ZF, Stoffel E, Cohen P (2017) Role of perivascular adipose tissue in vascular physiology and pathology. Hypertension May 69(5): 770-777.
        • Betley JN*, Huang Cao ZF*, Xu S*, Gong R, Magnus CJ, Yu Y, Sternson SM (2015) Neurons for hunger and thirst transmit a negative-valence teaching signal. Nature May 14, 521:180-185. (*equal contribution)
        • Betley JN*, Huang Cao ZF*, Ritola KD, Sternson SM (2013) Parallel, redundant circuit organization for homeostatic control of feeding behaviour. Cell Dec 5, 155(6): 1337-1350. (*equal contribution)
        • Sternson SM, Betley JN, Huang Cao ZF (2013) Neural circuits and motivational processes for hunger. Current Opinion in Neurobiology Jun, 23(3):353-360.
        • Schone C, Huang Cao ZF, Apergis-Schoute J, Adamantidis A, Ssakurai T, Burdakov D (2012) Optogenetic probing of fast glutamatergic transmission from hypocretin/orexin to histamine neurons in situ. Journal of Neuroscience Sep 5, 323(36): 12437-12443.
        • Beeler JA*, Huang Cao ZF*, McCutcheon JE*, Murakami M, Alexander E, Roitman MF, Zhuang X (2012) Taste uncoupled from nutrition fails to sustain the reinforcing properties of food. European Journal of Neuroscience Aug, 36(4): 2533-2546. (*equal contribution)
        • Huang Cao ZF, Burdakov D, Sarnyai Z (2011) Optogenetics: potential for addiction research. Addiction Biology Oct, 16(4):519-531.
        • Beeler JA*, Huang Cao ZF*, Kheirbek MA, Ding Y, Koranda J, Murakami M, Kang UJ, Zhuang X (2010) Dopamine-dependent motor learning: insights into levodopa’s long-duration response. Annals of Neurology May, 67(5): 639-647. (*equal contribution)