Nationwide Children’s Hospital (NCH), a global hub for advanced gene therapy discovery, has submitted a proposal to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to pursue possible treatments for the coronavirus (COVID-19). Genetically engineered natural killer cells in development there in Columbus, Ohio, to target cancer as it turns out, could potentially be used to fight viruses.
Urgency as Coronavirus Spreads
There is an urgency to develop a compelling defense against coronavirus as it spreads throughout the globe. According to Worldmeters, over 110,000 cases have surfaced worldwide, with 3,831 deaths as of March 9, 2020. Just last week, Congress passed an $8.3 billion emergency funding bill that supports the U.S. HHS for vaccine development, among other emergency measures for protecting and treating the public. HHS inked an expanded partnership in January with Janssen Research and Development (J&J) and two other groups to collaborate to develop vaccines and therapies targeting coronavirus.
Thus far, no cases in Ohio have been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; however, the first test kit doesn’t arrive until this Thursday, reported The Columbus Dispatch. Once the kit arrives, testing commences.
University on the Move with IP Formation
In parallel to submitting a proposal to the U.S. government, the institution is making moves to establish intellectual property protection as Dr. Dean Lee, founding director of the hospital’s Cellular Therapy and Cancer Immunology Program and a pediatric hematology/oncology investigator, has commenced the legal process for the establishment of intellectual property rights, reports Sherry Beck Paprocki with the Columbus Monthly. According to this local press, the government hasn’t yet responded.
NCH researchers have isolated NK cells and then expanded and replicated them to improve the fight against cancers. NK cells are in use in clinical trials around the country to fight cancers—including Ohio State University (OSU), where cancer research teams are investigating the use of NK cell therapy against myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome patients, report Ms. Beck Paprocki.
This past week, NCH researcher Meisam Naeimi Kararoudi revealed at the hospital’s 2020 Therapeutics Showcase at the Blackwell hotel, that genetically engineered natural killer cells in development to fight cancer could potentially be sued to fight off viruses. At this, even Kararoudi noted, “NK cells have strong anti-viral activity.” He also commented that researchers there could replicate the NK cells in a couple of days; however, they would need to be replicated in far greater numbers.
Would the NCH NK cell approach need to go through clinical trials? Although the answer of course would always be yes, what if the current crisis turns into a pandemic? In those situations, the FDA could potentially waive normal procedures. Moreover, there is no data currently that informs how long into the future it would take to be ready with such an experimental treatment as well as establishing practical considerations such as dosing, reports Andrew M. Corris, a senior licensing associate at NCH’s Office of Technology and Commercialization.
Dr. Dean Lee, MD, Ph.D., founding director of the hospital’s Cellular Therapy and Cancer Immunology Program and a pediatric hematology/oncology investigator
Meisam Naeimi Kararoudi, post-doctoral fellow in NCH’s Cellular Therapy and Cancer Immunology Program
Call to Action: Interested in learning more about this NCH intellectual property? Contact Andrew M. Corris with the NCH’s Office of Technology and Commercialization.