Kleo Pharmaceuticals, Inc., is working with South Korea-based Green Cross LabCell (GCLC) to test natural killer (NK) cell treatment options, typically used to treat cancer, for patients with COVID-19. Human clinical trials are expected to begin in the second half of the year in both the United States and South Korea.
“As a physician trained in infectious disease, I was on the forefront of the HIV infection epidemic in the 1980s,” said Doug Manion, MD, CEO of Kleo Pharmaceuticals, Inc. “We bear a responsibility to advance our anti-COVID-19 program as rapidly as possible to determine its utility in the fight. To that end, we are honored to collaborate with GCLC, whose allogeneic NK cells are already in late-stage clinical development in immuno-oncology and projected to advance into the clinic for COVID-19 in the second half of this year.”
Use of NK cells to treat COVID-19
Earlier this year, Kleo received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to proceed with an antibody recruiting molecule (ARM) NK cell combination therapy clinical trial for the treatment of newly diagnosed multiple myeloma. The ARM targets CD38 and uses autologous cytokine-induced memory like NK cells to kill tumor cells.
The ARM technology platform can rapidly develop fully synthetic bifunctional molecules that redirect a patient’s own antibodies for therapeutic effect. For the COVID-19 research, the ARM acts as a neutralizing antibody to block direct binding on the virus to human cells. In addition, the ARM enlists immune effector cells to eliminate viral particles and/or infected cells. Finally, the ARM can produce a long-term vaccination effect by activating and expanding immune memory cells, according to the researchers.