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Biotechs, Univ. Labs Partner on Covid-19 Combo Therapy

Lab mouse

(tiburi, Pixabay)

19 Aug. 2020. Two biotechnology companies are developing a Covid-19 treatment that combines engineered antibodies and natural killer immune system cells. The collaboration brings together Harbour Biomed, a Dutch-Chinese biotech in Rotterdam and Suzhou, China, with Dutch biotech Kiadis Pharma in Amsterdam. Joining the project are contract research company Viroclinics-DDL, and Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center, all in the Netherlands.

The two biotech companies seek to create a therapy for people infected with Covid-19 that provides a stronger and more varied mechanism for treating infections than monoclonal, or engineered, antibodies alone. Harbour Biomed develops synthetic antibodies for immune disorders and cancer, with genetically engineered mice. The company injects antigens, proteins that generate an antibody response, into the engineered mice that create cell lines called hybridomas. The variety of transgenic mice called H2L2 are engineered by Harbour Medical to produce human antibodies that for Covid-19 target a vulnerable region on the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus responsible for infections.

As reported by Science & Enterprise in June, Harbour Biomed and academic partners Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center designed a synthetic antibody as a treatment and vaccine against Covid-19, a project underwritten by drug maker AbbVie. In this new initiative, the company is producing a similar synthetic antibody, code-named 49F1, that in lab tests shows a strong binding affinity to SARS-CoV-2 and similarly structured coronaviruses.

Kiadis Pharma develops synthetic natural killer cells, similar to white blood cells in the innate immune system that respond to and attack multiple pathogen invaders. The company says its engineered natural killer cell technology, designed initially as cancer treatments, induces cancer cell death and provide adaptive immunity against recurring tumor growth.

On Monday the company announced a partnership with five academic research institutions in the Netherlands, as well as Harbor Biomed, to develop a Covid-19 therapy. With Harbour Biomed, Kiadis plans to create natural killer cells that work with engineered antibodies to eliminate SARS-CoV-2 coronaviruses. Kiadis says it designed a type of natural killer cell code-named K-NK-ID101 with potential anti-viral capability, but does not promote further inflammatory reactions.

Kiadis adds that K-NK-ID101 can be manufactured on a large scale and can be frozen for long-term storage. The combination of antibodies and natural killer cells is expected to provide therapeutic benefits needed by Covid-19 patients, since the virus is believed to break down natural killer cell immunity in many of these patients.

A key step in the collaboration is to determine if Harbour Biomed’s engineered antibodies can work with Kiadis’s engineered natural killer cells, and nature of the immunity generated in patients. “This innovative collaboration with Kiadis, says Harbour Biomed’s chairman and CEO Jingsong Wang in a company statement, “allows us to explore potential synergies between the innate and adaptive immunity.” Financial and intellectual property terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

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