Cell therapy weekly: unproven 'stem cell-based treatments' for COVID-19 – are some businesses taking advantage of public fears?

This week: Be The Match BioTherapies® (MN, USA) and NantKwest (CA, USA) collaborate to help progress a potential cell therapy for COVID-19-associated ARDS and a new platform from WuXi Advanced Therapies (PA, USA) may help accelerate cell and gene therapy development.

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The news highlights:

Unproven 'stem cell-based treatments' for COVID-19 – are some businesses taking advantage of public fears?
Collaboration to progress potential cell therapy for COVID-19-associated ARDS
New platform could accelerate cell and gene therapy development


Unproven 'stem cell-based treatments' for COVID-19 – are some businesses taking advantage of public fears?

There has been great interest and research into the potential use of stem cell-based products for the treatment of COVID-19 and COVID-19-related acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), although there are currently no regulatory-body approved cell therapies available for these indications. However, in a pre-print Forum article in Cell Stem Cell, Leigh Turner (Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota, MN, USA) has described how some businesses may be taking advantage of widespread public fears by marketing 'stem cell treatments' for COVID-19 that are unproven and unapproved. This is despite various respected organizations in the field – including the International Society for Stem Cell Research (IL, USA) – issuing statements condemning this.

In the article, Turner states: “…regulatory bodies and law enforcement authorities…should be alert to additional businesses peddling purported stem cell therapies and exosome treatments for COVID-19 and COVID-related ARDS…The commercial and clinical activities of businesses selling purported stem cell treatments and preventive measures for COVID-19 constitute sufficient risks to patient safety, public health, and truthfulness in advertising and commerce to warrant further investigations and enforcement actions.”

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Collaboration to progress potential cell therapy for COVID-19-associated ARDS

Be The Match BioTherapies® (MN, USA) and NantKwest (CA, USA) have jointly announced their collaboration aiming to progress the development of a potential cell therapy for the treatment of COVID-19-associated ARDS. Be The Match BioTherapies will provide donor material – in the form of cryopreserved donor stem cell material – to Nantkwest for use in a Phase Ib clinical trial of its human bone marrow-derived allogeneic cell therapy for ARDS, which is a primary cause of mortality amongst individuals with severe COVID-19.

Patrick Soon-Shiong, CEO at NantKwest, commented: “There is an immediate need for COVID-19 therapies across all stages of the disease, including for patients with ARDS, which is one of the most critical conditions caused by COVID-19. Thanks to the quality source material provided by Be The Match BioTherapies, we are prepared to rapidly scale manufacturing of this much-needed therapy, potentially saving numerous patients’ lives.”

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New platform could accelerate cell and gene therapy development

Contract development and manufacturing organization, WuXi Advanced Therapies (PA, USA), has announced the availability of its new, closed-process CAR-T cell therapy platform, which could help accelerate the development and manufacturing of cell and gene therapies by providing integrated capabilities for CAR-T production.

Felix Hsu, Senior Vice President and Global Head of Advanced Therapies at WuXi Advanced Therapies, stated: “We are hopeful that this new platform will not only enable groundbreaking advances in the field of cell and gene therapies, but also allow our customers to deliver innovative treatments to patients with even greater predictability and speed, saving lives in the process.”

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