China academy plans clinical trials on artemisinin derivative aimed at lupus

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) says it is set to begin clinical trials on a drug it invented, SM934, a derivative of artemisinin for treating lupus. The only other drug developed specifically for the disease has been an antibody-based one.

A survey indicates several million Chinese have the disease, formally known as systemic lupus erythematosus, a potentially fatal ailment that attacks the immune system throughout the body. Conventional treatment involves combining glucocorticoids and immunosuppressive agents that also could end up compromising the immune system in the long run.

The CAS drug, a water-soluble treatment, has been approved by the China FDA for trials after 15 years of research led to the conclusion it could restore the body's immune balance.

The antibody treatment launched in 2011 in the United States is priced too high for most Chinese, CAS told Xinhua. It is GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) monoclonal antibody, Benlysta (belimumab).

- here's the story from Xinhua