A group of 10 biopharma companies hope a plasma-based COVID-19 treatment is ready in time for a possible second wave of the pandemic later this year.
They are working on a hyperimmune globulin, a treatment which is a more standardized form of convalescent plasma transfusion. This treatment is manufactured from the blood of COVID-19 survivors, which is rich in antibodies. The coalition hopes this treatment will assist patients in fighting the virus and recovering with a stronger immune response.
The coalition hopes to start human testing of the treatment in July. The companies hope to finish testing the treatment by fall and gain regulatory approval by the end of the year.
The treatment is one of several antibody-based treatments which are entering testing this summer. Ten vaccines are now in the human testing phase and 123 more are in an early phase of research. It is hoped that some of the vaccines will be ready for emergency use this fall. However, the quantities of these vaccines would be limited.
Convalescent plasma treatment has been around for a century. It was used in the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. It involves taking plasma from people who have recovered from a virus and infusing it into people infected with the same virus. Antibodies in the plasma help the patient fight off the virus.
The impact of plasma-based COVID-19 treatments will be limited if they do work. The amount of donated plasma available severely limits the supply of such a treatment, donors and recipients must have compatible blood types and infusions must occur quickly after donations to maximize benefit.
In hyperimmune globulin treatment, drugmakers turn plasma into a drug. The plasma is purified with a focus on a specific antibody called IgG. The end result is that hyperimmune globulin treatment should theoretically be more consistent than convalescent plasma treatment.
“Convalescent plasma is not a drug,” said Takeda’s Christopher Morabito. “It varies from batch to batch. One person’s plasma is different from another person’s plasma in a variety of ways.”
The necessity of developing effective COVID-19 treatments is clear as long as an effective vaccine doesn’t exist.
“Our goal here isn’t to continue to produce hyperimmune globulin ad infinitum,” Morabito said. “Our goal here is to have an effective therapy to bridge us to a point where either the pandemic is over because it dies out or because there’s a vaccine available or until there are many more effective treatments for patients with this disease.”