: Hearst Connecticut Media file
NEW HAVEN — Kleo Pharmaceuticals, a biotech company based in the city’s Science Park complex, is joining forces with a South Korean firm in an effort to develop a treatment for the coronavirus.
Kleo Pharmaceuticals’ primary focus since its founding in 2016 has been developing drugs to fight cancer. But company officials said Tuesday they have begun working with Green Cross LabCell on a coronavirus drug.
Kleo Pharmaceuticals officials say they think the same antibody recruiting molecule technology that company researchers are developing to fight cancers such as myeloma, which develops in blood cells, can be used to treat the coronavirus.
“Being able to rapidly develop novel COVID-19 therapies highlights core attributes of Kleo’s platform technology — namely, speed and modularity,” said Dr. Doug Manion, chief executive officer of Kleo Pharmaceuticals. “As a physician trained in infectious disease, I was on the forefront of the HIV infection epidemic in the 1980s. We bear a responsibility to advance our anti-COVID-19 program as rapidly as possible to determine its utility in the fight.”
Manion said Kleo Pharmaceuticals researchers have been working on the coronavirus angle for several weeks, and they anticipate a compound ready for clinical testing in about two weeks, he said.
“I went to med school in 1983 because I wanted to have an impact on the AIDS epidemic,” Manion said. “When you look how many years it to develop a drug to treat AIDS and compare it to how fast we are able to develop drugs today, it’s incredible. But in this case, we know a lot about what this virus looks like because of what we learned when the SARS virus hit.”
Kleo Pharmaceuticals officials believe the coronavirus therapy could be ready for testing in humans sometime during the third or fourth quarter of this year, he said.
Manion said partnering with Green Cross LabCell is important because it is one of several companies in the world developing “natural killer” cell technologies.
“Natural killer cells are cells that normally occur in our bodies that can kills viruses,” he said. “Our drug is serving as a homing device to attract the NK cells, which makes them more targeted in attacking the virus.”
The coronavirus drug candidate the two companies are developing likely would be used for moderate to severe cases of the virus, according to Manion.
Even as Kleo Pharmaceuticals is working developing a drug to treat the coronavirus, company officials received approval earlier this year from the federal Food and Drug Administration to proceed with a cinical trial of an antibody recruiting molecule treatment for newly diagnosed patients with multiple myeloma.
The myeloma drug will go into Phase 2 clinical testing at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston later this year, Manion said.
The antibody recruiting molecule therapy develops synthetic molecules, which then are used to redirect a patient’s own antibodies for therapeutic effect. Antibodies are proteins that are produced by the immune system to help stop intruders from harming the body
The antibody recruiting molecule technology in the multiple myeloma process targets the cell surface protein CD38 with a goal of killing tumor cells.
Manion said he finds developing a treatment for the coronavirus particularly compelling “because there is a humanitarian and business track to this that fit together really well.”
“The reward (the company would get for developing a succesful coronavirus drug) is directly proportional to how much you’re helping to extend and improve people’s lives,” he said.