A world-renowned leader in infectious disease and transfusion medicine research, Vitalant Research Institute (VRI)—a division of Vitalant, the nation’s largest independent blood service provider—is helping direct collection and processing of blood plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients and developing technologies to detect and quantify virus-fighting antibodies.

Individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 may have immune-boosting antibodies in their plasma; that plasma—called “convalescent plasma”—could be used to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients. A number of Vitalant’s hospital partners across the United States, operating under Food and Drug Administration investigational protocols, are poised to screen potential donors. Once donor eligibility is confirmed, Vitalant will work with those hospital partners to collect and process the plasma for treatment in patients with active, serious COVID-19 infections. 

Vitalant is working with several of its hospital partners to qualify donors and begin collecting convalescent plasma in early April. To learn more about Vitalant’s efforts visit vitalant.org/COVIDfree.  

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“We believe this form of investigational treatment may give the body an extra boost to fight COVID-19 by using antibodies that are active against the disease,” commented Larry J. Dumont, PhD, vice president of research and scientific programs at Vitalant Research Institute. “With our network of hospital partners and experience, and as national guidance emerges, we are gearing up to help patients fight a novel infectious disease.” 

Vitalant will only accept donors who have recovered from COVID-19 after they have been evaluated by a physician.  This ensures that only fully recovered individuals are donating.

“This is an example of the medical and research communities coming together to effect real change during this pandemic,” stated Ralph Vassallo, MD, Vitalant’s chief medical officer. “Convalescent plasma is a promising response tool for fighting COVID-19 in patients, and potentially for those working on the front lines.”

VRI is also working to develop and evaluate tests to detect COVID-19-fighting antibodies. This could be used to detect those who had previously had the disease but were asymptomatic, potentially identifying future plasma donors for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

In addition, VRI is part of a research group to define the key characteristics which influence the efficacy of convalescent plasma, including the level and nature of antibodies against COVID-19, optimal collection timing, dosing and how these influence responses to therapy.  

Finally, VRI is also participating in the preparation of immune globulin from COVID-recovered patients. Immune globulin is a blood product prepared from the serum of thousands of donors that can be used to battle infections.