Taking Plasma Treatment to the Next Level: a “Hyperimmune” for COVID-19

The goal of a new alliance is an unbranded immunoglobulin medicine that can be manufactured at scale.

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Head of R&D BIll Mezzanotte at IFPMA virtual news briefing

Convalescent plasma has been much in the news as an emergency measure for struggling COVID-19 patients, but there’s a potential plasma-derived treatment in development called a hyperimmune that could deliver more consistent results and be manufactured at scale so it could be stocked by hospitals.

That was the message CSL Behring’s Head of R&D Bill Mezzanotte delivered Thursday at a virtual press briefing alongside Pfizer, Merck, Takeda, Novartis and Astra Zeneca, all working on treatments for the novel coronavirus.

With convalescent plasma, someone who has recovered from COVID-19 donates plasma and, with minimal processing, it’s quickly infused into a patient who’s ill with the virus. The hope is that antibodies from the recovered person will help the patient. It’s a near-term solution, Mezzanotte said, and a hyperimmune product could build upon that approach.

“Once we get going, a hyperimmune will have advantages,” Mezzanotte told the media during the event organized by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA).

The unbranded hyperimmune product, being developed by the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance, would concentrate antibodies and deliver them at a reliable, standardized dose, Mezzanotte said. The companies involved in the alliance – which welcomes all initiatives to address the pandemic, including vaccines – are already expert at developing plasma-derived medicines. Together, they have more than 500 plasma collection centers in the United States and another 100 in Europe.

Plus, hyperimmune treatments are nothing new, Mezzanotte said. They’re already in use for rabies and tetanus.

“The science supports it and they have been around for a while,” he said.

The hyperimmune clinical trial, expected as soon as this summer, will be a single, combined effort, Mezzanotte said. And when it’s time to manufacture, the companies again can pool their capabilities for maximum production.

Donations of convalescent plasma are critical to the success of the effort, Mezzanotte added. He encouraged those looking for more information on how to donate plasma to visit CoVIg-19PlasmaAlliance.org.