Renin-angiotensin system (RAS) signaling and angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) have been implicated in the pathogenesis of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). We postulated that repleting ACE2 using GSK2586881, a recombinant form of human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (rhACE2), could attenuate acute lung injury.We conducted a two-part phase II trial comprising an open-label intrapatient dose escalation and a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase in ten intensive care units in North America. Patients were between the ages of 18 and 80 years, had an American-European Consensus Criteria consensus diagnosis of ARDS, and had been mechanically ventilated for less than 72 h. In part A, open-label GSK2586881 was administered at doses from 0.1 mg/kg to 0.8 mg/kg to assess safety, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics. Following review of data from part A, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation of twice-daily doses of GSK2586881 (0.4 mg/kg) for 3 days was conducted (part B). Biomarkers, physiological assessments, and clinical endpoints were collected over the dosing period and during follow-up.Dose escalation in part A was well-tolerated without clinically significant hemodynamic changes. Part B was terminated after 39 of the planned 60 patients following a planned futility analysis. Angiotensin II levels decreased rapidly following infusion of GSK2586881, whereas angiotensin-(1-7) and angiotensin-(1-5) levels increased and remained elevated for 48 h. Surfactant protein D concentrations were increased, whereas there was a trend for a decrease in interleukin-6 concentrations in rhACE2-treated subjects compared with placebo. No significant differences were noted in ratio of partial pressure of arterial oxygen to fraction of inspired oxygen, oxygenation index, or Sequential Organ Failure Assessment score.GSK2586881 was well-tolerated in patients with ARDS, and the rapid modulation of RAS peptides suggests target engagement, although the study was not powered to detect changes in acute physiology or clinical outcomes.ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT01597635 . Registered on 26 January 2012.