Medipost Co., a Korean stem cell therapy developer, has launched a new subsidiary dedicated to research of umbilical cord blood-derived immune cell therapy with a two-pronged focus on regulatory T cells and NK cells to develop more effective autoimmune disease drugs and immunotherapy agents.
The wholly-owned subsidiary named Immunique was set up to speed up drug development, allowing its parent Medipost to continue to focus on stem cell research, Immunique’s chief executive Lee Young-ho told Maeil Business Newspaper.
Lee joined Immunique last year at the proposal from Medipost’s CEO Yang Yoon-sun. Medipost had cooperated with Lee in stem cell research since 2001 while Lee was a Hanyang University Hospital professor.
In the umbilical cord blood, immune-related cells are abundantly distributed. They work better than the immune cells in the body, Lee explained.
Immunique was inaugurated in April last year based on an internal research team consisting of seven scientists and researchers.
Currently, most of the treatments for immune diseases are developed by extracting and amplifying regulatory T cells from the peripheral blood of the patient`s body. However, when developed with regulatory T cells derived from umbilical cord blood, the cell proliferation rate is faster, which is advantageous for mass production, Lee said, adding individualized therapy with superior immunosuppressive effects can be developed.
Regulatory T cells are designed to target autoimmune diseases, while NK cells target cancer. NK cells are also present in both umbilical cord blood and peripheral blood, but they are abundant in umbilical cord blood.
Immunique aims to commercialize an autoimmune disease drug based on umbilical cord blood-derived regulatory T cells over the next six to seven years with a goal of going public on the Kosdaq market.
Lee has earned fame as the first to realize umbilical cord blood transplantation in Korea in 1998. His patient was a five-year-old girl diagnosed with leukemia that time. She was fully recovered after treatment and tied a knot this year. Lee officiated her wedding.
By Kim Si-gyun and Minu Kim
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]