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Biopharma tackles COVID-19, HIV and other viruses with gene and cell therapies

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Biopharma tackles COVID-19, HIV and other viruses with gene and cell therapies

Gene therapy and CRISPR gene editing are among the new technologies being deployed towards preventing and curing viruses. (Photo by kirstypargeter/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images) When Celularity spun out of Celgene in 2018 with $250 million and a plan to develop cell therapies from placenta to treat cancer, the science was still several years away from translating into marketable products. Then the COVID-19 pandemic exploded, and Celularity’s researchers raced to apply the science behind their cell therapies to fighting the new virus.

What emerged was CYNK-001, an off-the-shelf therapy made from immune cells in placenta called natural killer (NK) cells. It’s similar to the cell therapies Celularity is developing for cancer, explained founder and CEO Robert Hariri, M.D., Ph.D., in an interview.

“We learned that the way natural killer cells identify cancer cells is by recognizing the expression of stress antigens,” which are immune-stimulating molecules on the cells’ surfaces, Hariri said. “Well, it turns out virally infected cells express similar stress antigens.” Whitepaper

The story of CMIC’s rise from being a startup in a one-room apartment to a multinational leader is defined by an ability and readiness to foresee the changing needs of biopharma companies and adapt accordingly. With pipelines primed to continue evolving in the coming years, that adaptable approach is now more important than ever.

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A few months of preclinical work was enough to persuade the FDA to allow the company to launch a clinical trial of CYNK-001, and it’s now recruiting COVID-19 patients in New Jersey and Washington.

RELATED: Celgene spinoff debuts with big names, big bucks and big hopes

CYNK-001 is among a rapidly growing collection of gene […]

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