Microsoft Pairs With Blood Banks to Find COVID-19 Plasma Donations
The race to find a therapy for the virus has been blunted by a shortage of plasma donors, according to the Wall Street Journal.
On Tuesday, the coalition launched a campaign called The Fight Is In Us. The campaign's goal is to encourage COVID-19 suriviors to donate plasma using a self-screening tool developed by Microsoft Corp.
According to Dr. Michael Joyner of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, almost 15,000 COVID-19 patients in critical condition have received plasma transfusions in an emergency program authorized by the Food and Drug Administration. Researchers are studying recovered patient plasma to determine which antibodies are most effective against the virus. There is concern that the shortage will lead to competition for plasma amongst research groups.
“Everybody is clamoring for convalescent plasma donors,” said Chris Healey, president of corporate affairs at Grifols. Grifols is a company based in Spain that produces plasma-derived medicines and is involved with the campaign.
Difficulties arise with finding qualified donors as well. Donors must meet the typical requirements of blood donors such as weight, age, and underlying health. “These are all challenges we have to recognize along the way in getting a donation from someone to an actual product,” said Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer of biomedical services at the American Red Cross. “We are building the plane as we fly it.” The Red Cross has collected plasma from 4,000 recovered COVID-19 donors so far.
The use of the plasma in hospitals has been effective so far, but more in-depth clinical trials are currently underway. “We still need the definitive study,” said Trevor Mundel, president of global health for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is an adviser on the new campaign.
The new campaign is organized through the website, thefightisinus.org. The potential donor goes through a self-screen that asks if they were diagnosed with COVID-19, have been symptom-free for 14 days, meet the age and weight requirements, and if they have ever been diagnosed with HIV, hepatitis C or hepatitis B. Then the potential donor enters a zip code and is presented with nearby donation centers.
Plasma donors may be inclined to donate to for-profit plasma companies if they will receive compensation, but the most effective and beneficial option is to donate to a local blood bank where plasma is used immediately for sick patients.