Key Inclusion Criteria:
Men and women with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) aged ≥ 18 years and ≤ 75 years at screening, fulfilling at least 4 out of 11 criteria for SLE as defined by the American College of Rheumatology (Tan at al 1982, revised by Hochberg 1997)
Subjects must have a body mass index (BMI) within the range of 18 - 40 kg/m2 at screening visit
Histological diagnosis of proliferative lupus nephritis World Health Organization (WHO) ISN/RPS (Weening et al 2004) Class III or IV within 5 years of screening
Presence of antinuclear autoantibody (ANA titer ≥ 1:80) at screening
Morning UPCR ≥ 0.5 at screening visit and baseline visit
At least one of the following:
low complement level (C3 ˂ 0.9 g/L) or (C4 ˂ 0.1 g/L), and/or
elevated anti-dsDNA (≥ 30 IU/mL), and/or
urine sediment consistent with active proliferative LN such as presence of cellular (granular or red blood cell) casts or hematuria ( ˃5 red blood cells per high power field) if other causes such as menstrual bleeding are excluded
Patient must have sufficient kidney function as estimated by eGFR ˃ 30mL/min/1.73 m2 at screening and baseline visits (Levey et al 2009)
Patient must have active disease as defined by proteinuria and additional symptoms as above despite standard of care therapy for LN as considered appropriate by the treating physician (e.g., corticosteroids and/or immunosuppressive or immunomodulatory treatments such as mycophenolate, azathioprine, methotrexate or hydroxychloroquine). For guidance, see published guidelines such as Bertsias et all 2012 and Hahn et al 2012.
Women of childbearing potential (defined as all women physiologically capable of becoming pregnant) must use highly effective methods of contraception during dosing and until study completion.
Key Exclusion Criteria:
Any glomerulonephritis other than WHO Class III or IV lupus nephritis. Patients with proliferative nephritis (Class III or IV) who, in addition, have overlapping histological signs for other glomerulonephritis, e.g., Class V, are eligible at the investigator´s discretion.
Hypoalbuminemia (serum albumin of less than 2.0 g/dL)
Patients who have received:
oral or i.v. cyclophosphamide within 3 months prior to randomization
i.v. corticosteroid bolus (dose ˃ 1 mg/kg) within 3 months prior to randomization
rituximab or other B cell depleting agent within 12 months. for patients who received such treatment earlier, B cell count should be within normal ranges prior to randomization
belimumab within 6 months prior to randomization
any other biologic drug or an investigational drug within one months or five times the half-life, whichever is longer prior to randomization
any calcineurin inhibitor (e.g., tacrolimus or cyclosporin A) within 3 months prior to randomization
Patients who are at significant risk for the thromboembolic events based on the following:
history of either thrombosis or 3 or more spontaneous abortions
presence of lupus anticoagulant or prolonged activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT) and no prophylactic treatment with aspirin or anticoagulants as per local standard of care
Have had signs or symptoms of a clinically significant systemic viral, bacterial or fungal infection within 30 days prior to randomization
Live vaccines within 4 weeks of the first study drug infusion
Other protocol-defined inclusion/exclusion criteria may apply.