FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork)– The coronavirus is spreading all over New York and all over the world and companies are racing to help find treatments to solve this global pandemic.

At a state-of-the-art lab in Florham Park, New Jersey, the cell therapy company Celularity is hoping to join the fight against the coronavirus.

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The company has developed a source of immune cells called natural killer cells that they currently use in the treatment of certain types of cancer.

The company’s CEO Dr. Robert Hariri hopes those cells can also be used to fight viruses like COVID-19.

“Along the way, we recognized the same fundamental activity against cancer cells also could be effective against virally infected cells,” said Dr. Hariri in an interview with CBS2.


Dr. Hariri is a renowned cell biologist and says the vast majority of COVID-19 patients experience mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. According to the CEO of Celularity, the difference between people with mild symptoms and ICU patients is their immune systems.

“The system that’s designed to protect us from viral infection, in some people, just doesn’t work properly, and does that mean that there’s an opportunity to boost that system with an immunotherapeutic cell therapy?” said Dr. Hariri.

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Celularity has developed a way to vastly multiply huge numbers of natural killer cells derived from human placentas that would’ve just been thrown away.

Hariri suspects those natural killer cells found in the placenta could be what shields fetuses and newborn babies from coronavirus even though their mother was infected.

Recently, Celularity filed an investigational new drug application with the FDA to test their natural killer cells against the coronavirus. Dr. Hariri and his company have yet to hear from the FDA.

“Our hope is that the FDA recognizes that a product that meets the threshold for treating cancer could be used to treat these patients as well,” said Dr. Hariri.

The FDA told CBS2 in a statement that it cannot discuss the status of a pending application, but that the agency is working with companies to speed the development of COVID-19 treatments. Dr. Hariri says his company is ready to ramp up production of its cell therapy if they are given approval by the FDA.

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