The time is now to donate plasma for an antibody-rich COVID-19 treatment, CSL Limited CEO Paul Perreault told a White House roundtable on Thursday.
President Donald Trump moderated the discussion at American Red Cross headquarters, where Perreault represented the biotech industry alongside officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; U.S. National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins; LabCorp CEO Adam Schechter; and American Red Cross CEO Gail J. McGovern.
Through the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance, industry competitors are pooling their resources, their scientists and their manufacturing capability to develop a potential treatment concentrated with “precious antibodies” found in the plasma of recovered COVID-19 patients, Perreault said.
“These antibodies can be isolated and then they can be converted into what we term a ‘hyperimmune plasma therapy.’ It builds on the concept of a plasma transfusion, but the product is more like a standard medicine,” said Perreault, who wore an American flag face mask to the event.
The hope is that donated antibodies that fight COVID-19 – given as medicine – will give ill patients the boost they need to fight the virus and recover. A clinical trial, sponsored by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, is expected in August, Perreault said. Clinical doses of the potential treatment were recently manufactured in CSL Behring’s Bern, Switzerland, facility and sent to another CSL Behring site in Marburg, Germany, for packaging.
Longstanding research has established this treatment approach as effective, Perreault said, noting that the same method is used to treat rabies and tetanus.
“If the data from this trial support our hypothesis, we could be in a position to submit the hyperimmune therapy to the FDA well before the end of the year,” he said.
But more plasma donors are urgently needed, Perreault said.
Learn more about donating plasma, visit the Fight Is In Us campaign.
The response so far from recovered patients willing to donate their plasma shows the strength of the American character, Fauci said.
“I can think of nothing more manifesting of the helping of each other than someone donating from their experience of being ill. This is something that is part of the American spirit and we should be proud of that and we should show it,” Fauci said.
The science is straightforward, he added.
“The mechanism of it is directed against the virus taking the machinery that the body makes to get a protein to block the virus. And that’s exactly what this is all about,” Fauci said.
Schechter, of LabCorp, announced a new initiative offering free antibody testing to anyone who wants it. Even if you’re just getting a regular physical, your doctor can add this test on to your lab work, at no charge, he said. LabCorp asks only that those patients who test positive for antibodies consider donating plasma, Schechter said.
Donating plasma is “a testament to the generosity of the American public,” McGovern said. “They’re willing to lend an arm to help somebody they’ll probably never have the opportunity to meet.”