Shanghai Junshi Biosciences has started an early-stage study in China to test a potential antibody treatment against the coronavirus in uninfected people, informed official paper Liberation Daily on its online channel.
The experimental drug, JS016, is also expected to begin human study in the US in the second quarter of this year, through collaboration with Eli Lilly and Co.
The company hopes that its antibody, isolated from recovered patients’ blood and engineered by researchers, can also protect healthy people with high infection risks, such as medical workers and the elderly, from getting the virus, said Feng Hui, COO, Junshi.
But the product can be much more expensive than a vaccine as Junshi’s antibody drug is expected to contain larger amounts of costly proteins in one dose than a vaccine, Feng said.
To make the drug, reportedly, Junshi has been placing orders with overseas suppliers for materials and items such as specialised vials 12 months prior to delivery, instead of the usual six months, for fear that the virus outbreak would further disrupt logistics and supply chain bottlenecks.
Although further study is needed to determine how much protein to put in one dose, Feng said Junshi’s manufacturing capacity and access to key supplies allow it to make enough doses to serve 100,000 people “with absolutely no problem” by the end of the year, based on one gram of protein in a shot for one person.
However, Feng cautioned that it remains uncertain whether they can find enough participants to use the drug in later-stage, larger-scale human tests.