Posted on Mar 23, 2020, 4 p.m.
Baylor College of Medicine is teaming up with AlloVir to work on developing T-cell therapies against the COVID-19 outbreak; this collaboration will build on existing work to develop off the shelf cell therapies that can identify and eliminate specific viruses.
AlloVir has been investigating how to help those with weakened immune systems cope with viral pathogens, and have accumulated evidence of improvement in an approach that entails exposing donor T-cells to cytokines that are combined with viral fragments thereby equipping the immune cells to recognize and help eliminate certain pathogens. With the most advanced expression of this approach being Viralym-M T-cell Therapy which was designed to kill 6 viruses that commonly affect immunocompromised patients; the drug was moved into phase 2 in 2014 with enough data to encourage planning of a late phase program.
This same approach will be applied to SARS-CoV-2 specific T-cells with the goal to create an off the shelf therapy that is capable of targeting specific and similar viruses such as SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV as well as endemic coronaviruses. The plan is to position specific T-cells for use as monotherapy and incorporate the coronavirus into ALVR106, which is a preclinical asset geared towards community acquired respiratory viruses. Using this approach researchers hope to improve the outcomes for those who are immunocompromised and become exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses that could overwhelm their weakened immune systems.
A timeline has not been provided for this COVID-19 program, but the interest in coronaviruses other than SARS-CoV-2 could mean that such therapies may still be relevant even if they miss the window of opportunity for these treatments for the pathogen currently at hand. Other companies that re-purpose existing drugs may have more advanced assets, but it is worth noting that T-cell therapy may help to fill in gaps within the treatment landscape.
“Given the worldwide coronavirus pandemic and risks to immunocompromised patients now and in the future, we believe it is our responsibility to leverage our scientific expertise and allocate resources for an allogeneic, off-the-shelf, coronavirus-specific T-cell program,” said Ann Leen, Ph.D., AlloVir Co-Founder, Chief Scientific Officer, and Professor of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. “Together with Baylor College of Medicine we have already advanced two highly innovative allogeneic, off-the-shelf, multi-virus specific T-cell investigational immunotherapies. We believe we can apply this same approach to develop a cell therapy to treat and prevent coronavirus infections and diseases in immunocompromised patients.”
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