After the early April introduction of the Convalescent Plasma Expanded Access Program, Versiti Blood Center has received a sizeable grant for related COVID-19 treatment research.
The Advancing Healthier Wisconsin Endowment this week awarded the Versiti Blood Research Institute more than $382,000 toward the initiative to treat COVID-19 patients with plasma donated by individuals recovered from the virus.
Versiti is collaborating with Froedtert Hospital and the Medical College of Wisconsin to research the efficacy of the blood protein transfusion treatment, immune responses to COVID-19 and blood coagulation pathway abnormalities, in part through a clinical trial.
“This funding is invaluable to advancing our research,” says Dr. Gilbert White, primary investigator, Versiti executive vice president for research and chief science officer and professor at Medical College of Wisconsin. “Determining how convalescent plasma treatment can benefit COVID-19 patients will be a breakthrough. There are still unknowns surrounding this treatment, and our goal is to uncover them in an effort to help save the lives of the thousands who continue to be afflicted.”
More than 40 national institutions, including Mayo Clinic in Rochester, are part of the Convalescent Plasma Expanded Access Program, which is currently registering recovered patients to give plasma at Versiti and Red Cross locations, including Madison and Rochester, with the required specialized equipment.
Hospital-referred individuals who have tested positive for the virus and then been asymptomatic for 14 days, with a subsequent COVID-19 test proving negative, or for 28 days without the need for follow-up testing, are eligible for the trial.
Their donated plasma, approved by the Food and Drug Administration as an Emergency Investigational New Drug, will be transfused to an ailing individual on respiratory support in hopes of aiding recovery.
Plasma from recovered individuals is rich in virus-attacking antibodies, and the transfusion technique has been used for more than a century to treat individuals with influenza, SARS and other viruses. A single donor can provide up to three doses of antibodies.
Patients who are suffering from COVID-19 related respiratory failure, septic shock and multiple organ dysfunction will be eligible for a transfusion with one unit of ABO-compatible convalescent plasma.
Family members may not self-refer their loved one for the program but must give consent if qualified, and the attending hospital must be registered in the Convalescent Plasma Expanded Access Program.
Currently, 25 of La Crosse County’s 26 confirmed COVID-19 patients are considered recovered and may be eligible for the trial. Onalaska resident Kari Houser, who was the second local individual to be reported as positive for the virus, has already registered for the Convalescent Plasma Expanded Access Program and is awaiting approval.