Vitalant Research Institute (VRI) is expanding plasma collections in San Francisco in the fight against COVID-19. Individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 and want to donate plasma now have two options to help sick patients receive immune-boosting antibodies. In addition to convalescent plasma, the latest option is in support of a new investigational medication, known as hyperimmune globulin (H-Ig). Through an unprecedented partnership of world-leading plasma companies, the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance was formed to develop this non-branded plasma-derived therapy. VRI is in partnership with Takeda, one of the Alliance members.
VRI is a division of Vitalant, the nation’s largest independent blood service provider, whose site in San Francisco is now collecting donated plasma for hyperimmune globulin (H-Ig). H-Ig is a pooled, large-batch plasma product, which can potentially be used as a medication for prevention of infection (prophylaxis) or to treat people who are diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 virus infection and are at risk for serious complications from COVID-19. Donated plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients contains antibodies that could help the immune system fight the new coronavirus. The process purifies it to remove or inactivate any viruses and standardizes it so it has a consistent level of virus-specific antibodies in each unit. H-Ig is the result of this process. Once produced, H-Ig will have a shelf-life of 24-26 months, making it a long-term option for treatment in the event of future outbreaks.
“Recovered COVID-19 patients who donate plasma create the momentum for finding a treatment,” states Kadi Schroeder, director of cell sourcing and specialized collections at Vitalant Research Institute. “We encourage everyone eligible to join us in this journey. Their antibodies offer researchers the ability to study and create potential new medications that will have both short-term and long-term impact – which is critical when battling new infectious diseases.”
In addition to participating in research for the H-Ig product, those who have recovered from COVID-19 can donate convalescent plasma, which is currently the only plasma-derived antibody treatment available to COVID-19 patients and a promising immediate response tool. Vitalant collects convalescent plasma at its fixed blood donation sites across the country and distributes to its national hospital network as needed. Although the donation for both H-Ig and convalescent plasma is similar, convalescent plasma donations are used for transfusions for hospital patients whereas the H-Ig product collections support research and ultimately, could provide the raw material for a biologic that can treat patients in the future.
“This pandemic created a unity of purpose that is both urgent and transformational,” commented Cliff Numark, chief of marketing for Vitalant. “It is inspiring to see diverse organizations and individuals working together to find a treatment for the greater good.”
For individuals wishing to donate plasma for hyperimmune globulin (H-Ig), the eligibility* criteria are:
- Prior diagnosis of COVID-19, documented by a laboratory test
- Complete resolution of symptoms for at least 14 days
- Meet all other current FDA donor eligibility requirements to donate plasma
Donors who meet the criteria and want to donate convalescent plasma are encouraged to apply through the Vitalant website Vitalant.org/covidfree.