Motherwell-based biotech company TC BioPharm (TCB) is to begin clinical trials of an experimental therapy designed to kill Covid-19 infected cells.
TCB previously used gamma-delta T cells (GDTs) donated from healthy volunteers to treat cancer patients and believes they could boost the immune system of those being treated for Covid.
It has now gained regulatory approval and intends to start testing on patients at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in the next few weeks.
The hospital’s chief investigator Dr Nik Hirani said: “Harnessing the immune system to effectively and safely kill virus-infected cells is an extremely attractive strategy. GDTs are a potent component of the normal host defence system and seem to be deficient in patients with Covid-19.
“For a clinician that sees the consequences of Covid-19 lung injury for patients, the opportunity to test the idea that donor GDTs can be safely infused into infected patients is very exciting.”
TCB was established in 2014 to commercialise the use of GDTs, which are the body’s first line of defence against viral infection. It has genetically modified them to create tailored products which target diseases including melanoma, lung and kidney cancers.
The firm employs more than 80 staff to make large banks of the cells which are cryopreserved and can be shipped to hospitals as required.
Research has shown patients with severe infections of Covid are more likely to be low on GDT cells. The firm has been cleared by the UK regulatory body Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to treat patients hospitalised with the disease.
TCB’s chief executive and co-founder Dr Mike Leek said: “Having initially built TCBs cell therapy platform for treatment of cancer patients, it’s a unique and exciting opportunity for the company to treat individuals stricken by this terrible pandemic.
“Our focus has always been to treat patients and we are encouraged by the response of renowned clinicians, leading scientists and our investor base. We are pleased by the constructive support from Scottish Enterprise and the Royal Bank of Scotland.”
Scottish Government Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation Ivan McKee added: “TC Biopharm is one of the most innovative and impressive companies operating in Scotland’s world-leading life sciences sector. The company is always at the forefront of innovation and it’s fantastic that we’re able to utilise their globally-renowned expertise in the fight against Covid-19.”