When Acepodia CEO Sonny Hsiao began developing a list of candidates to fill the chief financial officer role at the biotechnology company that he had cofounded, it may have surprised some to see Jimmy Lai make the list.
Certainly, this was not due to any U.S. markets void on Lai’s resume—to the contrary, he had helped to take three companies public and served as chief financial officer for multiple U.S.-listed firms. Nor was it due to a presumed lack of boardroom stature on Lai’s part, as he was at that time serving on the boards of multiple NYSE-listed companies).
Instead, any surprise that Lai’s name elicited may have been due to the simple fact that he was known to have retired.Read More
“I had been working in (Asia) for 17 years, and it was time to change the pace and take my wife to all of the places that I had always promised I would,” explains Lai, who notes that his retirement was upended after he received a call from Acepodia and began learning about the innovative cell therapies that the company was developing to help treat cancer at significantly less cost.
“Not being a scientist, I do have my limits in understanding the technology, but I love to learn, and I began by speaking with everyone,” recalls Lai, whose resume no doubt stuck out in part not just because of his IPO experience but also because of the fact that his 36-year career could be divided almost evenly between the United States and Asia—and Acepodia operates labs in both.
Turn back the clock to the mid-1970s, and Lai is attending college on the island of Taiwan when he recalls noticing how Businessweek and The Wall Street Journal had begun to incorporate comments from chief financial officers in their reporting.
“The CFO name kept popping up, which was an indication that the role of the CFO was becoming more important in the overall management structure,” says Lai, who soon relocated to the United States, where he would receive an MBA degree from the University of Texas before entering the rank-and-file of the accounting profession within the United States. For the next 18 years, he would advance into a succession of senior accounting and controller roles, one of which led him back to Taiwan and subsequently opened the door to the CFO office. –Jack Sweeney
CFOTL: Tell us about Acepodia … what are its offerings?
Lai: Acepodia is in the cell therapy sector for treating cancer. It’s a new kind of cell therapy company. Traditional cell therapy companies use so-called CAR T cell. What they do is to use gene sequencing technology to treat cancer. At Acepodia, we have a proprietary cell line, one called the NK cell. Most important, we have this technology called ACC, for Antibody-Cell Conjugation, with which we can link the NK cell with the antibody and have them go fight against the cancer cell together. You can think of it as the NK cell being like an assassin and the antibody being his backpack. There is GPS, there’s a knife, there’s a gun in the backpack. So, you give the NK cell a state-of-the-art weapon to fight against the cancer cell. In essence, that’s pretty much what it’s supposed to do. We’re in the clinical trial stage right now.
We still need to continue to raise funds to further our clinical trial and broaden it, so for the next 12 months, that’s probably our number one priority.
Acepodia | www.acepodia.com | San Mateo, CA