COVID-19: Working Together to Go Faster for Patients
April 18, 2020
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the COVID-19 pandemic so far, it’s that we can achieve more together. We can make lockdown restrictions work most effectively if we follow the rules together. We can demonstrate our support for front-line health workers most powerfully if we celebrate their efforts together. And within the healthcare industry, we stand the best chance of developing potential treatments if we work together.
That’s precisely why we initiated a call for collaboration between leading plasma companies, which has resulted in Takeda joining forces with CSL Behring, Biotest, BPL, LFB and Octapharma to form the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance. I’m thrilled that we already have working teams in place to address all critical aspects – we’re now racing against time to make an investigational Hyperimmune globulin (H-Ig) medicine that we’re calling CoVIg-19.
Julie Kim, President, Plasma-Derived Therapies Business Unit
H-Igs are plasma-derived therapies that have proved effective previously in the treatment of severe acute respiratory infections. In fact, Takeda developed an H-Ig for H1N1, or the swine flu, in 2009. That’s why we firmly believe that CoVIg-19 could be an effective and early option to not only treat patients who are most vulnerable to the virus, but also possibly to prevent pulmonary disease in those exposed to an increased risk of infection.
Developing the therapy successfully, however, relies on another important collaboration. Perhaps the most important one of all – with people who have recovered from COVID-19. These are people who have produced “antibodies” to the virus that causes COVID-19. The main purpose of these antibodies is to target the virus and rid it from their system. So when someone who’s recovered from COVID-19 donates plasma, the antibodies are still present in their plasma and that’s why it’s called “convalescent” plasma. This special plasma could be one key to fighting COVID-19.
There are two ways in which convalescent plasma can be used as a potential COVID-19 treatment. It could be administered directly to sick people in a hospital, or used to make an H-Ig medicine. Both approaches are important options in the fight against COVID-19 and, in the spirit of collaboration and our commitment to always put patients first, we are not only supporting our own efforts but also those of others.
The main benefit of using convalescent plasma for direct administration is that it can be given to the patient shortly after the plasma donation is completed. H-Ig takes a little longer, due to the manufacturing process, but it does have a few advantages. First, multiple plasma donations are pooled together and the antibodies are separated out through our manufacturing process, which results in a consistent and reliable concentration of antibodies in a small vial. H-Ig can potentially be given to patients in lower volumes and possibly in less time than a direct plasma transfusion. Second, the risk of any known virus or bacteria passing from donor to patient is much lower with an H-Ig too, thanks to the rigorous virus inactivation and removal steps that are embedded in the plasma product manufacturing process. Third, the manufacturing process is scalable and allows us to make larger volumes of H-Ig with a shelf-life that makes it easier and safer to ship to patients around the world.
Together, CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance member companies operate more than 500 plasma collection centers in the U.S. alone, which means there’s one reasonably close to more than 50% of the eligible donor population. We’re currently collecting convalescent plasma in Austria too, and soon we’ll be doing so in Czechia, Germany and Hungary.
So, what needs to happen next? Well, we need you, your family members, your neighbors and your friends to spread the word about plasma donation. If you or someone you know has recovered from COVID-19, we’d encourage them to visit our new dedicated website – www.covig-19plasmaalliance.org. Information on the site, including an interactive set of questions, will help them learn more about eligibility to donate. And by donating their plasma, people who’ve successfully beaten the virus can make the most amazing contribution – they could literally be helping to save the lives of others.
Extraordinary times require extraordinary solutions. The CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance is committed to finding H-Ig solutions, and to doing so in the fastest time possible. The response has been very positive so far with other plasma companies joining the Alliance and companies outside of the plasma industry providing support such as Microsoft and Uber Health, among others.
We are guided by our values and keeping patients first so we’ve set aside individual company interests to work together because together, we are stronger and together, we can potentially save more lives.