The state of Maryland and Bloomberg Philanthropies are jointly funding a Johns Hopkins-led study to develop a possible treatment for COVID-19 using blood plasma from survivors of the virus, Gov. Larry Hogan’s office announced today.
Arturo Casadevall, an infectious disease expert at both the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, will lead a team of researchers. Their hope is that isolating plasma from survivors could treat people infected with the virus and boost the immune systems of doctors and first responders.
“Casadevall and his team believe that using plasma from recovered viral positive patients could provide immediate immunity to the most at-risk individuals,” Hogan’s office said in the release. “The strategy of isolating plasma is a long-established technology, and recent advances make it as safe as a blood transfusion.”
Bloomberg Philanthropies will donate $3 million toward the research, and the state government will contribute $1 million.
Casadevall and his team will conduct a clinical trial to test the effectiveness of the therapy on people in all stages of the disease, as well as its ability to prevent infection in people who are at high risk of exposure.
“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,” Hogan said in a statement. “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.”
Michael Bloomberg, the former three-term mayor of New York, recent Democratic candidate for president and Hopkins alum, said plasma treatment could save many lives as scientists work to develop a vaccine.
In recent weeks, Casadevall and his team have coordinated a nationwide network of blood banks to collect, isolate and process plasma from COVID-19 survivors.
Hopkins is also working with researchers from nearly two dozen hospitals and research centers on the initiative and to identify possible donors who have recovered from the virus. If antibodies are found in a donor’s blood, the plasma can be harvested at a local Red Cross or the New York Blood Bank.
As of this writing, there are more than 580,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus around the world, including more than 97,000 in the U.S., according to a dashboard run by Hopkins’ Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
More than 130,000 people have recovered from the disease, while 26,865 have died, according to the dashboard.
Per a staff bio, Casadevall’s lab studies microbes cause disease and how humans can protect themselves. Specifically, the lab has researched a fungus that can lead to a lung infection that is particularly dangerous for immune-compromised patients, as well as working to develop countermeasures to the chemical weapon anthrax.
Hopkins has served a number of roles in the worldwide fight against COVID-19, from studying the spread of the virus to other research efforts to combat the virus to advising governments on their response.
President Ronald J. Daniels said in a statement that Casadevall “is joining with partners across the globe in a race against the clock, and his work embodies to the fullest our university’s mission to serve humanity through discovery.”
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