Shanghai Junshi Biosciences in human tests for coronavirus antibody drug


BEIJING: Shanghai Junshi Biosciences has started an early-stage study in China to test a potential antibody treatment against the coronavirus in uninfected people, the company said in a filing on Sunday.

The experimental drug, JS016, is also expected to begin human study in the United States in the second quarter of this year, through collaboration with Eli Lilly and Co.

Junshi is among a few biotech firms and research institutes backed by global pharmaceutical giants to work on antibody-based therapies to help those infected with the fast-spreading new coronavirus, which has killed nearly 400,000 globally.

The company hopes that its antibody, isolated from recovered patients’ blood and engineered by researchers, can also protect healthy people with high infection risk, such as medical workers and the elderly, from getting the virus, said Feng Hui, chief operating officer of Junshi.

But the product can be much more expensive than a vaccine, a more commonly used preventive medicine for which multiple candidates are being tested, as Junshi’s antibody drug is expected to contain larger amounts of costly proteins in one dose than a vaccine, Feng said.

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