ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Bloomberg Philanthropies, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Johns Hopkins University announced Friday a joint effort to fund research into the potential therapeutic uses of COVID-19 convalescent plasma.
The research will be led by Arturo Casadevall, an infectious disease expert who holds joint appointments in the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
Physicians and scientists from around the United States will try collecting, isolating, and processing blood plasma from COVID-19 survivors, in hopes of treating 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.
The funding consists of a $3 million gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies, in addition to $1 million in backing from the state of Maryland.
At Johns Hopkins, the research team plans to measure the effectiveness in a randomized clinical trial for both treatment of COVID-19 positive patients at all stages of disease progression as well as prevention of infection after high-risk exposure.
Infectious disease physicians and other providers throughout the nation 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. The study will also 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.
The Food and Drug Administration announced on March 24 that it is making it easier for doctors to use the experimental treatment for COVID-19 patients. Currently, there are nearly 93,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, with more than 566,000 across the globe.