At the Infectious Disease Research Institute in Seattle, doctors are developing a cell therapy treatment for patients with moderate cases of COVID.

Researchers are using “natural killer cells,” a special kind of immune cell everyone is born with, to attack COVID-19.

After an independent review of the cell therapy given to the first three patients, the trial can expand.

Dr. Corey Casper is in charge of the trial at the Institute. Celularity, in New Jersey, is producing the special cells to fight COVID.

“The real advance in the ability to give this therapy was the ability to isolate and purify natural killer cells from donors, expand them in a laboratory under very safe conditions and be able to give those back to patients who have COVID,” said Casper. “What we’re hoping is this therapy will kill the virus and will also strengthen the immune response to this virus so that you are better protected from ever getting it again in the future or developing some of the long-term complications.”

He says there are already anti-inflammation drugs for severely sick COVID patients and antivirals, like remdesivir, for those with early disease.

This cell treatment involves giving a patient three IVs in a week and is targeted at patients with moderate cases of COVID.

So far, the cell treatment has been tested on three patients who saw a dramatic increase in their oxygen levels, according to Casper. He says a fourth patient, and the first in Washington, was recently given the treatment at MultiCare in Tacoma. Now Casper has the go-ahead to expand his phase 1 trial. He is looking for 10 volunteers. Phase 2 of the trial will involve 72 patients.

“It would allow you to get the most effective therapy while also helping us to know whether or not we can develop more effective treatments for a disease for which right now there aren’t great therapies,” said Casper.