- By Adam Harringa
Racing against time, medical researchers, life science companies and COVID-19 survivors launch national campaign to drive plasma donation
"The Fight Is In Us" campaign seeks to mobilize COVID-19 survivors to accelerate the development of potentially lifesaving therapies
[ROCHESTER, Minn.] — May 26, 2020 — A coalition of world-leading medical and research institutions, blood centers, life science companies, technology companies, philanthropic organizations, and COVID-19 survivor groups has come together to support the rapid development of potential new therapies for patients with COVID-19. Working together under the "The Fight Is In Us" campaign, the coalition is seeking to mobilize tens of thousands of people in the U.S. who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate their blood plasma, which contains vital antibodies that have fought off the disease and could now help others do the same.
The campaign is working against two urgent timelines: to recruit COVID-19 survivors within two months of their recovery to ensure that their blood plasma contains a robust enough concentration of antibodies to have a positive effect, and to address the substantial seasonal increase in COVID-19 cases anticipated this fall in the Northern Hemisphere by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health experts.
"As an early survivor of COVID-19, I was desperate to do whatever was in my power to be a part of the solution. I started Survivor Corps to mobilize and connect the thousands of people affected by COVID-19 to support all ongoing scientific, medical and academic research, and this coalition is furthering our goal," said Diana Berrent, founder of Survivor Corps. "Inside COVID-19 survivors is the antibody-rich blood plasma that may help stem the tide of this pandemic. The time is now for superhero volunteers to donate their blood plasma and help stop COVID-19 in its tracks."
Individuals who have recovered from COVID-19, or know someone who has, can visit TheFightIsInUs.org to understand if they may be eligible to donate and find a nearby blood or plasma donor center using a simple self-screening tool. Donating blood plasma is a generally safe and proven process. The coalition offers more than 1,500 locations at which COVID-19 survivors can choose to donate. Donations can be made at both blood and plasma donor centers.
The coalition partners are working on two distinct approaches for treating COVID-19 that both urgently require collection of convalescent plasma now. One approach is the direct transfusion of blood plasma though the Expanded Access Program for convalescent plasma, which is currently being administered with authorization from the Food and Drug Administration by Mayo Clinic. Its safety and efficacy are currently being evaluated through multiple clinical trials in different populations. Blood donor centers throughout the country are currently collecting convalescent plasma from COVID-19 survivors for this purpose. The other approach is the development of a medicine known as a hyperimmune globulin (H-Ig), which is being manufactured now and will be studied in clinical trials this summer. Through the manufacturing process, the plasma is pooled, concentrated and purified, resulting in a vial of medicine with consistent levels of antibodies that is easy to store, distribute and administer to patients. Coalition members developing an H-Ig include CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance (CSL Behring, Takeda, ADMA Biologics, Biopharma Plasma, Biotest, BPL, GC Pharma, Octapharma and Sanquin) and Grifols.
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About The Fight Is In Us
The Fight Is In Us will help advance global research and understanding of COVID-19; progress toward effective, sustainable and widely available convalescent plasma-based therapies; and the medically sound allocation and use of convalescent plasma. The organizations and coalitions involved include leading academic medical institutions (the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Expanded Access Program led by Mayo Clinic, Michigan State University and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis); leading plasma companies (Grifols and the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance, which includes founding members CSL Behring, Takeda, ADMA Biologics, Biopharma Plasma, Biotest, BPL, GC Pharma, Octapharma and Sanquin); leading blood centers (including the AABB, America’s Blood Centers, Blood Centers of America, New York Blood Centers and Vitalant); healthcare organizations (Anthem and Ashfield Healthcare); COVID-19 survivor groups including Survivor Corps; and media including Ad Council.
The Fight Is In Us is also supported by advisory and technology members. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Lasker Foundation are providing advisory support. Microsoft Corp. is providing technology support for the development of TheFightIsInUs.org and a simple self-screening tool for potential donors. MITRE, a not-for-profit organization that operates federally funded research and development centers, is hosting both the website and tool. Uber Health has contributed 25,000 free, roundtrip Uber rides to and from plasma donor centers for those potentially eligible to donate.
The combined efforts of these organizations will contribute specialist advisory expertise, technical guidance and additional support to potentially save more lives — together. But the coalition's success depends on the urgent support of survivor donors around the world. Those who have recovered from COVID-19 can learn more about how to donate their strength and about the coalition partners at TheFightIsInUs.org.
About Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization committed to innovation in clinical practice, education and research, and providing compassion, expertise and answers to everyone who needs healing. Visit the Mayo Clinic News Network for additional Mayo Clinic news and An Inside Look at Mayo Clinic for more information about Mayo.
Robert Nellis and Adam Harringa:
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Additional Quote Sheet
"AABB is proud to support blood centers throughout the country that are collecting potentially lifesaving plasma from COVID-19 survivors. The blood banking community is an integral part of our health care system, and their heroism has truly been on display during this pandemic. Convalescent plasma can be a game-changing therapy for patients in need, and we are pleased to be part of a coalition that recognizes and supports the vital work blood centers do." — Debra BenAvram, CEO of the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB).
"We are proud to join this critical campaign to educate and empower COVID-19 survivors to donate plasma to help save the lives of others. During this time of uncertainty, we know that this will be a powerful tool in the fight against COVID-19." — Lisa Sherman, President and CEO of the Ad Council.
America's Blood Centers
"Community blood centers continue to be at the forefront of the nation’s efforts to collect convalescent plasma from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19. ABC member blood centers remain committed to ensuring the availability of convalescent plasma as a potential treatment for COVID-19 patients and are pleased to have the support of Microsoft and other partner organizations in expanding the collection of convalescent plasma throughout the U.S. Community blood centers will remain mobilized in assisting the nation’s COVID-19 response efforts."— Kate Fry, Chief Executive Officer, America’s Blood Centers.
"At Anthem, we recognize the importance of building a convalescent plasma biobank in the fight against COVID-19 and are proud to support the efforts to help COVID-19 survivors, patients and their caregivers. Joining the coalition and The Fight Is In Us campaign expands on our partnership and leadership in collaborative efforts with community and healthcare organizations to lead through care, guide the recovery and help shape public-private solutions for the future of healthcare." — Steve Friedhoff, Chief Clinical Officer, Anthem.
"Ashfield Healthcare is extremely proud to be part of this collaborative partnership in the fight against COVID-19. Patients are at the core of the healthcare services that we provide, and we’re passionate about leveraging our industry-leading contact center service to support COVID-19 survivors. We are committed to supporting the survivors who will be participating in this critical campaign to donate their plasma." — Greg Flynn, Global President, Ashfield Healthcare.
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
"Safe and effective treatments for COVID-19 are urgently needed, and convalescent plasma and hyperimmune globulin could play a key role in saving lives and protecting frontline responders from infection until vaccines are widely available. We're excited that major academic research institutions and life science companies have joined forces to accelerate the development of potentially lifesaving products, and we're incredibly grateful to COVID-19 survivors for their essential commitment to this fight." — Trevor Mundel, President of Global Health, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance
"Partnership and collaboration are critical to the success of all the coalition development programs that rely on convalescent plasma donation. The more plasma we can collect, and the earlier we can collect it, will directly impact the speed and scale of our efforts. The growing and active involvement of leading public and private companies from outside the plasma industry, who support the drive for plasma donation, underscores the potential of convalescent plasma to fight this public health crisis. Together, we all share the same goal — to save lives by using the power of this scarce resource in different ways." — Julie Kim, President of Plasma-Derived Therapies Business Unit, Takeda, and Co-Leader, CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance.
"During times of uncertainty, leaders must lead. The hyperimmune globulin therapy has the potential to be one of the earliest treatment options for COVID-19 and also can be scaled and distributed. We look forward to working with NIAID and health authorities to bring this therapy to patients as early as possible. One of the stated goals of the alliance is to be an effective partner for important institutions such as NIAID and also to help develop coherent regulatory strategies that can give global health authorities the confidence to streamline the approval process of hyperimmune globulin therapy for COVID-19." — Bill Mezzanotte, Executive Vice President, Head of R&D, CSL Behring, and Co-Leader, CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance.
"The development of a hyperimmune globulin for treatment as well as pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis is not just a rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to its attributes as a readily available therapy, it can bridge the time necessary to develop a vaccine. The technology also forms the basis for rapid deployment of a therapy in response to future outbreaks of emerging viruses and other pathogens. The Fight Is In Us provides the opportunity to harness biology;s natural solution to fighting disease." — David Bell, Chief Innovation Officer, Grifols.
"It's important to know that convalescent plasma is a biological product that has to be obtained from a specific set of patients who have recovered from COVID-19. It cannot be made in a lab. There"s no other source. That's why reaching as many of these volunteers as possible is so essential." — Michael Joyner, M.D., Anesthesiologist, Mayo Clinic, and Principal Investigator, Expanded Access Program (EAP) for convalescent plasma to fight COVID-19.
"Mayo Clinic's researchers are working around the clock to accelerate discoveries related to NB SARS-CoV2, the virus, and COVID-19, the disease. Successful outcomes have never been more urgently needed, and we continue to depend on the collaborative efforts of many across the nation and the globe to rapidly discover, translate and apply scientific advances." — Gregory Gores, M.D., Kinney Executive Dean for Research, Mayo Clinic.
"Microsoft has provided the technology infrastructure for a health bot that guides people through their eligibility as a plasma donor and directs them to the nearest donor center. Basically, we're asking people who have survived COVID-19 to contribute to helping others do the same." — Peter Lee, Corporate Vice President, AI and Research, Microsoft.
The MITRE Corporation
"We are privileged to serve as a trusted partner to host the website to spread the critical message on how recovered patients can help others in need. Building an army of donors to rapidly develop effective plasma-based treatments is an exemplar of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts." — Rich Byrne, Senior Vice President, The MITRE Corporation.
"There is a long road ahead in the fight against COVID-19, and we must continue to support those on the front lines and those working towards a potential treatment. We at Uber are committed to helping move what matters, and Uber Health is proud to donate rides to the Plasma Collection Coalition, eliminating transportation as a barrier to plasma donation for those who are eligible, and willing, to participate." — Dan Trigub, Head of Uber Health.
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