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CIRM Board Approves Third Clinical Trial for COVID-19

OAKLAND, CA (US) – The governing board of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) recently awarded $750,000 to Xiaokui Zhang, Ph.D., at Celularity to conduct a clinical trial for the treatment of COVID-19.  This brings the total number of CIRM clinical trials to 64, including three targeting the coronavirus.

This trial will use blood stem cells obtained from the placenta to generate natural killer (NK) cells, a type of white blood cell that is a vital part of the immune system, and administer them to patients with COVID-19. NK cells play an important role in defense against cancer and in fighting off viral infections. The goal is to administer these cells to locate the active sites of COVID-19 infection and destroy the virus-infected cells. These NK cells have been used in two other clinical trials for acute myeloid leukemia and multiple myeloma.

The board also approved two additional awards for Discovery Stage Research (DISC2), which promote promising new technologies that could be translated to enable broad use and improve patient care.

One award for $100,000 was given to Albert Wong, M.D., at Stanford. Dr. Wong recently received an award from CIRM to develop a vaccine that produces a CD8+ T cell response to boost the body’s immune response to remove COVID-19 infected cells. This latest award will enable him to expand on the initial approach to increase its potential to impact the Latinx and African American populations, two ethnicities that are disproportionately impacted by the virus in California.

The other award was for $249,996 and was given to Preet Chaudhary, M.D., Ph.D., at the University of Southern California. Dr. Chaudhary will use induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to generate natural killer cells (NK). These NK cells will express a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR), a synthetic receptor that will directly target the immune cells to kill cells infected with the virus. The ultimate goal is for these iPSC-NK-CAR cells to be used as a treatment for COVID-19. 

Learn more:
https://www.cirm.ca.gov/about-cirm/newsroom/press-releases/06262020/cirm-board-approves-third-clinical-trial-covid-19