COVID-19 Resource Center
COVID-19 Resource Center
March 30, 2020
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Researchers to collaborate on natural killer cell-based COVID-19 treatment

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Green Cross LabCell, a South Korea-based biopharmaceutical company, announced it will begin development of a COVID-19 treatment based on its anticancer therapy work using natural killer cells.

Human clinical trials for the treatment are expected to begin in the second half of this year in the U.S. and South Korea, according to a company statement.

The treatment — to be developed via a joint study with Kleo Pharmaceuticals — will make use of Kleo’s antibody-recruiting molecule (ARM) technology.

ARMs have two distinct binding domains connected by a tunable linker domain.

When used to treat cancers, one of the agent’s domains binds to CD38 expressed on the surface of cancer cells, whereas the other binding domain attaches to antibodies in the disease microenvironment. This creates a bridge that enables the patient’s antibodies to coat and kill the tumor cell via the body’s antibody-mediated immune mechanisms, according to the manufacturer.

SEM image shows the virus that causes COVID-19 (yellow) emerging from the surface of cells (blue/pink) cultured in the lab.
Source: NIAID-Rocky Mountain Laboratories

Green Cross LabCell said the COVID-19 research will involve two tracks. The first will be development of allogeneic natural killer cell therapy that creates a long-term immune response, directly treating COVID-19 by attacking infected cells and activating other immune cells. The second uses ARMs that act as neutralizing antibodies to natural killer cell therapy for the treatment of COVID-19.

The trial will be conducted in collaboration with the NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a research team led by Choi Young-ki, PhD, a professor at Chungbuk National University School of Medicine in Korea.