Junshi Biosciences Announces Dosing of First Healthy Volunteer in Phase I Clinical Study of SARS-CoV-2 Neutralizing Antibody JS016 in China

  • First healthy volunteer has been dosed in a Phase I study of JS016, the first SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody to enter the clinical stage in China
  • Junshi and Lilly will co-develop JS016 globally
  • JS016 is a recombinant fully human monoclonal neutralizing antibody that blocks the binding of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to the host cell surface receptor ACE2

SHANGHAI, China, June 07, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Junshi Biosciences (HKEX: 1877), a leading innovation-driven biopharmaceutical company dedicated to the discovery, development, and commercialization of novel therapies, today announced that the first healthy volunteer has been dosed in the Phase I clinical study of JS016 at Huashan Hospital Affiliated to Fudan University in China. JS016 is the first SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody to enter clinical trials in China. Junshi and Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE: LLY) are collaborating to co-develop JS016 globally, with Junshi leading clinical development in China and Lilly leading clinical development in the rest of the world. 

The trial is a randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study to evaluate the tolerability, safety and pharmacokinetic and immunogenicity of JS016 in healthy subjects. Should Phase 1 results show the antibody can be safely administered, the company intends to move to the next phase of testing to study the antibody’s ability to prevent and treat COVID-19. The study researchers are Prof. Zhang Jing and Prof. Zhang Wenhong from Huashan Hospital.

COVID-19 is an acute respiratory infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that has infected 6.8 million people, with a current death toll of over 390,000 worldwide. There are currently no approved vaccines or specific drugs that target COVID-19.

Neutralizing antibodies may have the potential to prevent and treat COVID-19. Previous clinical trials of agents developed to treat Ebola have shown that monoclonal neutralizing antibodies can reduce viremia, attenuate virulence, substantially improve clinical symptoms and reduce the mortality of those infected.

JS016 was jointly developed by Junshi Biosciences and Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (IMCAS). The fully human monoclonal antibody was identified by screening blood samples of patients who recovered from COVID-19. A preclinical study shows that JS016 expresses extremely high specific affinity (on a level of nM) to the SARS-CoV-2 receptor-binding domain (RBD) on the spike protein blocking the virus from invading host cells. A recent publication in Nature (Shi et al. Nature) detailed the findings from a study showing JS016 protected rhesus monkeys from COVID-19 infection, suggesting a potential for prophylactic use in humans.

Professor Zhang Wenhong from Huashan Hospital, head researcher of the clinical study, said: "Neutralizing antibodies can precisely target the SARS-CoV-2 virus which may quickly prevent the virus from replicating in the human body. We hope to demonstrate the safety and tolerability of JS016 in Phase I and provide supporting data for additional clinical trials.”

Dr. Yan Jinghua, a co-developer of JS016 and a researcher at IMCAS, said: "Preclinical studies have shown that JS016 has strong neutralizing and blocking ability, as well as prophylactic and treatment effect. We anticipate that JS016 could be further tested in clinical trials.”

Dr. Feng Hui, Chief Operation Officer of Junshi Biosciences emphasized that speed is the key in this campaign against COVID-19 and that “over years of accruing expertise and experience, Junshi has established a research and technology platform for antibody development, enabling us to accomplish the vital steps of protein expression, pharmaceutical research, screening and engineering modification, as well as the technical development for clinical batches and GMP 2000L stable pool manufacturing.”

Dr. Ning Li, Chief Executive Officer said: “We are very pleased that we have achieved this key milestone through joint efforts. Our R&D and manufacturing teams have been working diligently, aiming to help the infected and the vulnerable as quickly as possible.”

About JS016
JS016 is specific to the SARS-CoV-2 surface spike protein receptor binding domain and can effectively block the binding of viruses to host cell surface receptor ACE2. The project is jointly developed by Junshi Biosciences and Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Science.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, Junshi Biosciences rapidly launched the research and development program of neutralizing antibodies to combat COVID-19. Within two months, the company has completed IND enabling pre-clinical studies, the process development and production for GLP toxicity study and GMP production of clinical material by leveraging the company’s platform technology.

JS016 is a derivative antibody that originated from single B cells of a recovered patient. Screened by the human immune system, JS016 should not bind to human antigens. Researchers also introduced LALA mutations to the Fc portion to potentially lower the risk of antibody-dependent enhancement, antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity, and antibody-dependent cellular phagocytosis. Preclinical toxicological experiments of the Maximum Tolerated Dose and No-observed-adverse-effect level are higher than the recommended starting dose for a human clinical trial.

JS016 is in Phase I trial in China, which is the first clinical trial of a SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody in healthy subjects in the world. 

About Junshi Biosciences
Established in 2012, Junshi Biosciences is committed to developing first-in-class and best-in-class drugs through original innovation and becoming a pioneer in the area of translational medicine to provide patients with effective and affordable treatment options. On December 24, 2018, Junshi Biosciences was listed on the Main Board of the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong with the stock code: 1877.HK. The Company has established a diversified R&D pipeline comprising 21 drug candidates with therapeutic areas covering cancer, metabolic diseases, autoimmune diseases, neurologic diseases, and Infectious disease. Product types include monoclonal antibodies, fusion proteins, antibody-drug conjugates, and small molecule drugs. With a combined 33,000L fermentation capacity in two GMP-facilities at Shanghai and Suzhou, Junshi has established the manufacturing infrastructure to support commercialization and provide our partners and patients with high-quality products through a global supply chain network. For more information, please visit: http://junshipharma.com.

Institute of Microbiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IMCAS) was founded on December 3, 1958, through the merger of the Institute of Applied Mycology and the Beijing Laboratories of Microbiology, both of which were affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). After over 50 years of development, it has become the nation’s largest comprehensive research institution of microbiological science with 5 State and CAS key laboratories. IMCAS owns the largest fungal herbarium in Asia with nearly 500,000 specimens and the largest microbiological culture collection in China with more than 41,000 strains. In addition, it possesses a microbiological information center, a core facility, a Biosafety Level-3 laboratory and other supporting platforms.

Contact Information
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Junshi Biosciences
+ 86 021-2250 0300
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Michael Levitan
+ 1 646.378.2920

PR Team:
Junshi Biosciences
Zhi Li
+ 86 021-6105 8800
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+ 1 646.378.2960