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Corey Casper in 2015 / Photo courtesy of Seattle Times
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Seattle’s Infectious Disease Research Institute has received seven-figure funding to begin human trials on a potentially groundbreaking novel coronavirus treatment.

The study could launch within weeks, take about 11 months to complete, and enroll about 100 patients diagnosed with a COVID-19 infection that’s causing moderate to severe pneumonia. It would deploy cancer-fighting NK-cells as an immunotherapy treatment for the coronavirus rather than the current approach of antiviral medication.

“Antivirals try to kill the virus itself but unfortunately most act in a way that’s pretty slow,’’ Dr. Corey Casper, CEO of the institute, told The Seattle Times in an interview Thursday. “When COVID-19 patients get very sick in the hospital, the problem is not just due to the virus, but the body trying to fight that virus. In some of the organs like the lungs, there’s ‘friendly fire’ so to speak. The inflammation that occurs when the body tries to fight that damage sets off damage.’’

But the proposed immunotherapy approach “gives patients back a type of immune cell called a ‘natural killer’ cell – an NK-cell.

“It gives them an infusion of these NK-cells and their whole job is to find sites of active viral infection in your organs, kill the virus, and reduce the damage or inflammation that’s being done in those organs.’’

Read the entire story at the Seattle Times. Corey Casper is a Clincal Professor in the Department of Global Health and the Associate Director of the Center for AIDS Research (CFAR).