Published April 23, 2020
The Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is participating in a national effort being coordinated by the Mayo Clinic to collect convalescent plasma as a possible therapy for COVID-19 patients.
On April 10, the Clinical Research Office (CRO) in the Jacobs School launched the local program of the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved as an Emergency Investigational New Drug.
The premise is that people who have recovered from COVID-19 have developed antibodies against the disease, which could help speed recovery if administered to a currently infected person.
Within just a few days of UB and its affiliated teaching hospitals making the announcement, more than 200 community members, many of them health care workers who have recovered from COVID-19, entered the screening process to see if they could participate.
“There’s already been a tremendous response,” says Sanjay Sethi, MD, director of UB’s CRO and professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine.
Sethi is coordinating the program with Timothy F. Murphy, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of medicine and director of UB’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute, as well as Pamela K. Anderson and Kimberly A. Brunton, associate directors of operations in the CRO.
COVID-19 patients hospitalized at Buffalo General Medical Center, Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital and Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) will be eligible to receive the plasma, provided they meet specific clinical criteria.
Sethi emphasizes that in Western New York, the Convalescent Plasma Project is not a clinical trial, but rather an opportunity to provide plasma to some of the sickest patients under what the FDA is calling an investigational expanded access protocol.
“We decided to pursue this expanded access, compassionate use option,” Sethi says. “Scientifically, of course, it’s better to go with a randomized controlled trial, but COVID-19 is an extraordinary situation, where there isn’t much we can offer these patients beyond supportive care. The clinicians are saying ‘let’s do what may help’ and figure out the science later.”
According to Sethi, some published data points to a clinical benefit in small studies of COVID-19 patients who received plasma from people who have recovered from the disease. Similar data exists for related coronaviruses, such as SARS and MERS.
“Our major focus is to get as many people to donate as possible so that we have as much plasma available as possible for patients,” Sethi says.
Individuals interested in donating should fill out the online screening form.
Once someone is screened and deemed eligible, they will be contacted on how and where to donate.
People may contact the CRO at 716-888-4845 or 716-888-4840 with any questions.
Clinicians overseeing the program at Buffalo General and Millard Fillmore Suburban are Manoj J. Mammen, MD, associate professor, and Jamie N. Nadler, MD, clinical assistant professor.
At ECMC, the program is overseen by Joseph L. Izzo, MD, professor and chief of the Division of Clinical Pharmacology, and Brian M. Murray, MD, associate professor.
All are faculty members in the Department of Medicine in the Jacobs School and physicians with UBMD Internal Medicine.