Two Asian companies–BioLineRx of Israel and JHL Biotech of Taiwan–have agreed to collaborate on the development and marketing of BL-9020, a monoclonal antibody that could become a significant means of treatment for early-stage type 1 diabetes.
BL-9020 targets Natural Killer receptor cells in the immune system which play a key role in attacking pancreatic beta cells, eventually leading to the onset of full-blown type 1 diabetes. The Natural Killer cells, called NKp-46, specifically target those insulin-producing cells.
Development of an effective application of BL-9020 could preserve remaining beta cells, and either delay or even prevent the need for frequent insulin use by type 1s. Studies with lab mice manifesting type 1 have shown that BL-9020 is effective during the so-called “honeymoon period” when the disease has not yet completely shut down insulin production.
Both biopharmaceutical companies will split the tasks of developing and commercializing an eventual Bl-9020 product, with JHL Biotech possessing global manufacturing rights and exclusive marketing rights in China and Southeast Asia. BioLineRx will have development and commercialization rights for the rest of the world.
JHL Biotech has said it will adhere to FDA guidelines and regulations as it develops the treatment. No estimates were given as to when human trials of BL-9020 might begin.