Junshi Biosciences Kicks Off China’s First Covid-19 Antibody Trial

Junshi Biosciences has announced that the first healthy volunteer has been dosed in a Phase I clinical study of JS016 in China. JS016 is the first SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody to enter clinical trials in China.

Junshi is collaborating with Eli Lilly (LLY) 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 JS016 in healthy subjects. If 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.

According to Junshi, previous clinical trials for Ebola have shown that monoclonal neutralizing antibodies can substantially improve clinical symptoms and reduce the mortality of those infected.

In this case, the fully human monoclonal antibody was identified by screening blood samples of patients who recovered from Covid-19. A preclinical study showed that JS016 expresses extremely high specific affinity to the SARS-CoV-2 receptor-binding domain, blocking the virus from invading host cells.

A recent publication in Nature also detailed the findings from a study showing JS016 protected rhesus monkeys from Covid-19 infection.

Professor Zhang Wenhong from Huashan Hospital 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.”

Shares in LLY are currently trading up 14% year-to-date, and analysts have a cautiously optimistic take on the stock’s outlook. With 5 recent buy ratings and 4 hold ratings, Eli Lilly shows a Moderate Buy Street consensus. The average analyst price target of $163 indicates 9% upside potential lies ahead.

Mizuho Securities analyst Vamil Divan recently ramped up his LLY price target following the drug-maker’s solid first quarter earnings. (See Eli Lilly stock analysis on TipRanks).

“Lilly’s current valuation appears stretched to us relative to its large cap biopharma peers so we maintain our Neutral rating, but we raise our price target to $155 (from $148) and acknowledge current investor bias towards safer, higher quality names will likely continue to support the stock” he explained.

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