Ex-GSK Infectious Disease Lead Launches Chinese Venture to Develop Monoclonal Antibodies Targeting COVID-19

Apr 2, 2020 | Coronavirus, COVID-19, Infectious Disease, Investor Watch, Monoclonal Antibodies, News

Ex-GSK Infectious Disease Lead Launches Chinese Venture to Develop Monoclonal Antibodies Targeting COVID-19

Tsinghua University, Third People’s Hospital of Shenzhen (China), and Brii Biosciences (Brii Bio) announced a partnership and licensing deal to discover, develop, manufacture and commercialize fully human neutralizing monoclonal antibodies to address the COVID-19-driven global pandemic. They claim to have developed possible candidates to take on the deadly pathogen. They will leverage the extensive infectious disease experience and deep industry and government connections of Brii Bio founder Dr. Zhi Hong.

Who is the Scientific talent is behind this venture?

The intellectual property that is the foundation of this underlying licensing agreement and business partnership involves the work of Professor Linqi Zhang at Tsinghua University and Zheng Zhang, a professor at Third People’s Hospital of Shenzhen.

Leveraging Research out of Tsinghua University & Third People’s Hospital of Shenzhen

Both Professors have identified multiple diverse and potent neutralizing monoclonal antibodies with therapeutic potential against SARS-CoV-2 that have been characterized from patients in China who have recovered from COVID-19. Their research was recently published in the preprint server BioRxiv.

Based on their research, the university and hospital have come together with Brii Bio to advance multiple candidates for prophylactic (preventive measures) and therapeutic intervention (treatment).

Working day and night leads to this IP

Apparently, teams have been working around the clock to focus on potential COVID-19 treatments since the outbreak in Wuhan. Importantly, these teams had prior research experience with SARS and MERS, which offers context and perspective as they moved forward during this ongoing and present-day pandemic. They have “focused on searching for monoclonal antibodies early on through single B-cell sorting and rapid sequencing, thereby laying the foundation for further optimization of those neutralizing antibodies,” reported Professor Zheng Zhang.

Why are the university professors partnering with Brii Bio?

Because they work for academic institutions and need a commercial entity organized from the ground up to commercialize early-stage monoclonal antibodies. It is, of course, done often like this where the biotech firm licenses the underlying technology from the university research centers that first generated the intellectual property. Their primary goal, however, is to speed up the development of the target neutralizing antibodies to the clinic.

Who is Brill Bio?

Brii Biosciences is committed to serving patients’ needs and improving public health by accelerating the development and delivery of breakthrough medicines through partnerships; best-in-class research and development; and the disruptive application of digital and data insight. They have operations in China and the United States. Company founder Zhi Hong, PhD, served as Senior Vice President and Head of GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) Infectious Diseases Therapy Area Unit. He was widely credited as the key architect of GSK’s comeback and success in HIV & Infectious Diseases medicine discovery and development. Under his leadership, ViiV Healthcare’s (joint venture between GSK, Pfizer and Shiongi) HIV business was revitalized with the approval of Tivicay & Triumeq. A public health advocate, Dr. Hong has helped establish multiple public-private partnerships with the U.S./E.U governments (DTRA, BARDA, NIH & IM) and philanthropic organizations (Gates Foundation & Wellcome Trust).

What are their Targeted Development timelines?

The collaborative members (Tsinghua, Third People’s Hospital of Shenzhen and Brii Bio) seek to achieve an accelerated timeline of six months from the selection of a lead development candidate to the first-in-human clinical trials, with the potential for additional timeline acceleration as reported in the Brii Bio news release. The university and hospital partners will offer resources, talent, and equipment to this undertaking to support necessary testing, screening, virologic, biochemical and cell culture characterizations—while the Brii Bio venture infuses development expertise and antibody optimization, not to mention mobilize its lawyers to attain the appropriate intellectual protection and seasoned drug development professionals to ensure effective project management, CDMO management as well as clinical and regulatory oversight.

Tsinghua University Background

Tsinghua University was established in 1911 under the name “Tsing Hua Imperial College.” Tsinghua is an important hub for scientific research and talent cultivation. For more than 100 years, with the goal of leading global fundamental research and serving core national development strategies, Tsinghua University is dedicated to optimizing scientific discipline and academic settings and promoting innovation capabilities for top-notch research outcomes.

Shenzhen 3rd People’s Hospital

National Clinical Research Center for Infectious Diseases / Third People’s Hospital of Shenzhen (Second Affiliated Hospital of Southern University of Science and Technology) was founded in 1985, formerly known as “Shenzhen Donghu Hospital”, which was then renamed in 2008. The hospital is a modern Class 3A research hospital founded by the Shenzhen Municipal Government under the guiding principle of “comprehensive general hospital with strong specialty focus.” The hospital is mainly responsible for the prevention and control of infectious diseases and major epidemics in Shenzhen and surrounding areas, and provides comprehensive general medical services. It is the most comprehensive and largest infectious disease general hospital in southern China. The Third People’s Hospital of Shenzhen is committed to the clinical diagnosis, treatment, and research of major infectious diseases with a long history of extensive experience in major epidemics such as SARS, H5N1 and H9N1 avian influenza, MERS, and SAR-CoV-2, where the hospital had undertaken major clinical diagnosis and treatment tasks, and established systematic systems in diagnosis, treatment, and research.

Lead Research/Investigators

Linqi Zhang, Professor, Tsinghua University

Zheng Zhang, Professor, Third People’s Hospital of Shenzhen

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