Eli Lilly to Take Junshi's Covid-19 Antibody to Global Market

The partners hope to kick off clinical studies in the United States in Q2. Both stocks rising.

Author: Jennifer Chan   

Shanghai-based Junshi Biosciences (HKEX: 1877) and Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE: LLY) have teamed up on the development of Covid-19 antibodies.

According to the joint statement issued earlier this week, Junshi delved into discovering a cure to treat the coronavirus, which so far has infected nearly 3.7 million and killed 258,409, in the early days of the outbreak. Since, the Chinese biopharma company said, "Multiple neutralizing antibodies have been engineered, with the lead asset poised to enter clinical testing in the second quarter."

Now, it has partnered with the renowned Indianapolis-based pharma giant Lilly, a component of the S&P 500. Junshi said it hopes to leverage "Lilly's global presence and capabilities" to reach more Covid-19 patients.

Lilly's chief scientific officer, Dr. Daniel Skovronsky, said in the statement, "The data generated by Junshi Biosciences suggest the lead antibody may have appropriate properties to support testing its therapeutic use in patients as well as exploring its potential for preventing infection in at-risk individuals. We look forward to partnering with Junshi Biosciences to quickly begin testing this potential new therapy in clinical trials."

The deal gives Lilly exclusive rights to develop, produce, and sell the product outside China, while Junshi retains the rights for the same in the domestic market. 

About Junshi's antibody: "JS016 is a recombinant fully human monoclonal neutralizing antibody that 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."

The company has completed a number of pre-clinical studies. Junshi is currently waiting to get the green light from the Center for Drug Evaluation of the National Medical Products Administration to initiate the IND application submission in China, it said. Together with Lilly, Junshi plans to apply for IND and kick off clinical studies in the United States in the second quarter.

Since the announcement on Monday, stock in Junshi jumped from trading near HK$37 per share to near HK$40 per share. On Wednesday, it closed at HK$39.75 in Hong Kong.

LLY enjoyed a similar uptick, rising from near $152 per share to today's $157.

Early last month, Lilly announced it has launched the study of baricitinib, marketed as "Olumiant" and approved in 65 countries to treat rheumatoid arthritis, in patients with Covid-19.

"Given the inflammatory cascade seen in COVID-19, baricitinib's anti-inflammatory activity has been hypothesized to have a potential beneficial effect in COVID-19," Lilly said.