The U.S. Food and Drug Administration
approved a clinical trial Friday that will allow Johns Hopkins University
researchers to test a therapy for
COVID-19 that uses plasma from recovering patients.
Casadevall, a Johns Hopkins infectious disease
expert, proposed the use of convalescent plasma to treat critically ill
COVID-19 patients and to boost the immune systems of health care providers and
first responders. He assembled a team of physicians and scientists from around
the United States to establish a network of hospitals and blood banks that can
collect, isolate, and process blood plasma from COVID-19 survivors.
The strategy of
isolating plasma is a long-established technology and recent advances make it
as safe as a blood transfusion. The FDA's approval allows the team of
researchers to begin testing the technique's effectiveness in boosting the
immune systems of health care providers, first responders, and others at high
risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Currently there are no
proven drug therapies or effective vaccines for treating the disease.
Casadevall and his team believe using plasma from recovered patients could
provide immediate immunity to the most at-risk individuals.
At Hopkins, the efforts
to deploy convalescent plasma against COVID-19 is led by an interdisciplinary
team that includes Evan
Bloch and Shmuel
Shoham of the School of Medicine and Andy
Pekosz and David
Sullivan from the Bloomberg School of Public Health.
"We are grateful
and encouraged that researchers can move forward with this important research
aimed at protecting those most at risk, our front-line health care providers
and first responders," said Bloomberg School Dean Ellen
J. MacKenzie. "We also applaud the researchers' vision in the early
stages of this pandemic to explore using blood plasma to treat critically ill