GI Cell sets new record in culturing highly active natural killer cells

By Lim Chang-won Posted : February 16, 2022, 15:20 Updated : February 16, 2022, 15:22

This photo released by GI Cell shows CEO Hong Chun-pyo (left) and other developers of patented technologies standing in front of a bioreactor containing natural killer cells at the company's immune cell research center. [Courtesy of GI Cell]

SEOUL -- GI Cell, a South Korean developer of immune cell therapy products, claimed to have set a new world record in culturing highly active natural killer cells with 200 liters. Natural killer (NK) cells are a type of white blood cell and are seen as a promising tool for use in adoptive immunotherapy because they efficiently attack cancer cells or cells infected with viruses or bacteria.

Because NK cells are the most powerful immune cells in the human body and are extremely safe due to not inducing immune rejection when other people's cells are transplanted, many companies are striving to develop NK cell therapy products in an off-the-shelf form. 

GI Cell, affiliated with South Korea's bio-venture company GI Innovation, said that the culturing of 200 liters of NK cells has not been officially reported by any leading domestic and international NK cell therapy companies. 

GI Cell said its NK cell therapeutics showed high levels of activation markers. "GI Cell will spur the development of innovative cell therapies that lead the anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory markets based on the registered platform technologies," CEO Hong Chun-pyo said in a statement on February 16.

GI Cell succeeded in culturing 50 liters of NK cells in October 2020. To boost culturing capabilities, the NK expander platform that incorporates an ancillary protein that enables mass culturing without cell exhaustion has been used, the company said, adding the "feeder-cell free" culture system using the platform facilitated mass culture without the input of cancer-derived feeder cells, simplifying the procedure and maximizing safety.

The company said its patented platform technology has acquired a domestic patent. With NK cell mass-culturing, GI Innovation Chairman Jang Myoung-ho said that the applicability of combination therapy with GI Innovation's main immunotherapy drug, GI-101, became a viable prospect. "We will strive to start clinical trials for this therapy in the first half of next year." 
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