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The joint public-private initiative will provide $4 million in funding to a Johns Hopkins-led research team exploring therapeutic uses of blood plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients.
On March 27, 2020, Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced a joint effort to fund research into the potential therapeutic uses of COVID-19 convalescent plasma. The funding consists of $3 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies and $1 million from the state of Maryland.
The John Hopkins research team plans to measure the effectiveness of COVID-19 convalescent plasma and monitor the safety of this therapy in a randomized clinical trial for both the treatment of COVID-19 positive patients at all stages of disease progression as well as prevention of infection after high-risk exposure.
In recent weeks, Arturo Casadevall, an infectious disease expert and Bloomberg Distinguished Professor who holds joint appointments in the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, has led a team of physicians and scientists from around the United States to establish a network of hospitals and blood banks that can begin collecting, isolating, and processing blood plasma from COVID-19 survivors.
Researchers hope to use the technique to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients and boost the immune systems of health care providers and first responders. Currently, there are no proven drug therapies or effective vaccines for treating COVID-19. Casadevall and his team believe that using plasma from recovered viral positive patients could provide immediate immunity to the most-at-risk individuals. The strategy of isolating plasma is a long-established technology, and recent advances make it as safe as a blood transfusion, according to the university.
Infectious disease physicians and other providers will identify recovered COVID-19 patients as potential donors. After it is confirmed that certain COVID-19 antibodies exist in their blood, plasma will be harvested from these donors at a local Red Cross or the New York Blood Bank, which is also collaborating in this effort. Additionally, the study will recruit COVID-19 patients and individuals who have not been infected with the virus, as well as healthcare workers or close contacts classified as high-risk exposures – for measurement of improved outcomes or stopping transmission.
Johns Hopkins is coordinating the research initiative with other medical centers and doctors from nearly two dozen hospitals and research centers, including researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, the Stanford University Medical Center in California, and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. The university reports that on March 24, FDA announced that it is making it easier for doctors to use the experimental treatment for COVID-19 patients.
“Taking on the greatest public health challenge of our generation requires urgent and innovative collaboration. As scientists work to develop a vaccine, plasma treatment has the potential to save many lives-including the lives of doctors and healthcare workers on the frontlines of the pandemic,” said Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and three-term Mayor of New York City, in a university press release.
“We are very fortunate that Maryland has some of the top health research facilities in the world, and I am confident in our state's ability to be a leader in developing treatments and perhaps even a vaccine for COVID-19," said Gov. Hogan in the release. "I want to sincerely thank Bloomberg Philanthropies and Johns Hopkins University for working with our state to form this exciting public-private partnership, which will protect the health and well-being of our citizens and has the potential to save thousands of lives.”
Source: Johns Hopkins University