Scots biotech TCB to trial T cells as Covid treatment

Scottish biotechnology company TC BioPharm (TCB) said on Wednesday it has submitted documents to UK regulators “to start safety trials on an experimental therapy designed to kill Covid-19 infected cells.”

The clinical trials will focus on a possible T cell treatment for Covid-19, aimed at reducing the need for intensive care. 

T cells are white blood cells that are part of the immune system along with antibodies and some scientists are hopeful they could play a role in tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

Newhouse and Edinburgh-based TC BioPharm said it is “starting initial clinical trials anticipated to be at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.”

Established in 2014, TCB calls itself “the leader in clinical use of gamma-delta T cells (GDTs) which are the first line of defence in viral infection and are pre-programmed to target a wide range of diseases including many cancer types.”

TCB said it is a “pioneer of the first scalable allogeneic gamma delta T cell therapy platform.”

The company continued: “Having previously demonstrated safety of GDT’s in late-stage cancer patients, TCB has been in discussion with the UK regulatory body (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency – MHRA) and now the company has recently gained approval to treat patients hospitalised with Covid-19.

“Subsequent to such regulatory approval, TCB aims to commence clinical safety studies in the next few weeks.”

TCB said Covid-19 patients will be treated under the supervision of Chief Investigator Dr Nik Hirani.

“Hospitalised patients will receive treatment following confirmation of Covid-19 infection, with the intention of preventing their need for intensive care,” said TCB.

“Several scientific publications have highlighted that those patients at greatest risk from Covid-19 are deficient in GDT cells and so may be unable to fight the infection.

“The latest data has shown that patients with severe infection exhibit a deficiency of these important virus killing cells.

“It is hoped that by donating these immune privileged cells which are banked from healthy volunteers that the immune system can fight the infection. “

Scottish Government Trade Minister Ivan McKee said: “TC Biopharm are one of the most innovative and impressive companies operating in Scotland’s world-leading life sciences sector.

“They are 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.

“I am incredibly proud that so many Scottish companies like TCB have contributed to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and we will continue to support them and others to ensure that we beat the virus as soon as possible.”

Dr Nik Hirani, Chief Investigator (University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh Royal Infirmary), 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.

“For a clinician that sees the consequences of Covid lung injury for patients, the opportunity to test the idea that donor GDTs can be safely infused into infected patients is very exciting.”

TCB CEO 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.”

About the Author

Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.