Paul Y. Song, MD, on Using Autologous Natural Killer Cells to Treat Parkinson Disease

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The chairman and chief executive officer of NKGen discussed the mechanism behind the company’s NK cell therapy SNK01 and promising early results in patients with PD.

This is the second part of an interview with Paul Y. Song, MD. For the first part, click here.

“[T]he skepticism that we had was really, really pretty extreme. We really just had to put our heads down, figure out the mechanism of action, get the corresponding biomarker data, as well as clinical outcome data, to then be able to present this at meetings. Now we went from nobody believing what we do to having major institutions all wanting to be part of our trial.”

Many companies and academic institutions are pursuing the use of allogeneic natural killer (NK) cell therapies for use in the treatment of various diseases, such as cancers. Some of these products involve genetic engineering of the NK cells to make them more potent towards a specific target. NKGen Biotech, on the other hand, is currently developing SNK01, an unengineered, autologous NK cell therapy for several wide-ranging indications. Although originally developed by the company for oncology indications, NKGen is now also evaluating SNK01 for Alzheimer disease (AD) and Parkinson disease (PD). Notably, after having tested the therapy for PD in a compassionate use context, NKGen received clearance of an investigational new drug (IND) application from the FDA for a phase 1/2a clinical trial in patients with PD on April 30, 2024.1 SNK01, which is being developed in a collaboration between NKGen and the Parkinson’s Foundation minted in November 2022, is comprised of autologous NK cells that are not genetically engineered, but have undergone a process aimed at conferring enhanced cytotoxicity and activating receptor expression.2

Following the IND clearance, CGTLive® interviewed Paul Y. Song, MD, the chairman and chief executive officer of NKGen, to get his insight on the therapy’s development and potential for use in PD. Song described the atypical backstory of how the company decided to evaluate SNK01 in neurodegenerative disorders like AD and PD, the initial skepticism it received from the broader medical community, and the promising early results from compassionate use administrations in these indications.

REFERENCES
1. NKGen Biotech announces FDA clearance of investigational new drug (IND) application for SNK01 NK cell therapy in Parkinson’s disease. News release. NKGen Biotech, Inc. April 30, 2024. Accessed July 10, 2024. https://nkgenbiotech.com/nkgen-biotech-announces-fda-clearance-of-investigational-new-drug-ind-application-for-snk01-nk-cell-therapy-in-parkinsons-disease/
2. NKMAX's NK cell therapy for Parkinson’s scores FDA compassionate use approval. News release. NKMAX. February 23, 2023. Accessed July 10, 2024.https://www.koreabiomed.com/news/articleView.html?idxno=20514
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