The Korea Herald


GCLC raises possibility of NK cell therapy for COVID-19

Research in laboratory stage, likely to take years to discern commercial potential

By Lim Jeong-yeo

Published : Aug. 18, 2020 - 14:53

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GC LabCell, a cell therapy specialist, said Tuesday that it has confirmed Natural Killer cells’ therapeutic effects against the SARS CoV-2 virus.

NK cell therapy is an innovative treatment. There are no commercialization-approved NK cell therapies worldwide as of yet, meaning it is uncertain how long the research for NK cell therapy for COVID-19 could take.

GCLC’s research is in the laboratory stage and will need to go through preclinical animal trials and three stages of human trials before it can be commercially distributed.

In in-vitro lab research jointly conducted by GCLC and Chungbuk National University, GCLC’s NK cell therapy pipeline was seen attacking and killing cells infected with the SARS CoV-2 virus.

The NK cells were seven to eight times more active upon contact with virus-infected cells than with healthy cells, and led to a 50 percent increase of interferon gamma compared to the control group. Interferon gamma, or IFN-g, is an indicator used to evaluate immunity.

“We have confirmed the multilayered effects of NK cell (therapy)’s anti-carcinogenic and antiviral effects through this research,” said Hwang Yu-kyeong, head of research and development at GCLC.

“In the preclinical research that will continue, we plan to build up meaningful data to back up our future global clinical trials,” said Hwang.

GCLC and US biotech Kleo Pharmaceuticals are jointly researching for a COVID-19 treatment using the former’s NK cell culturing technology and the latter’s antibody recruiting molecules technology.

GCLC’s business revolves around the company’s ability to mass produce and freeze NK cells, which means it could commercialize the treatment once the research is completed.

NK cells are innate immune cells that eradicate abnormal cells within the human body, such as cancer cells and viruses.

GCLC has been researching NK cell therapy as a next-generation cell therapy for liver cancer (MG4101), pivoting on the fact that NK cells can be transplanted from one person to another, and that it has minimal side effects. MG4101 is undergoing phase 2 clinical trials.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (