Bloomberg Philanthropies and the state of Maryland will spend $4 million to back a Johns Hopkins University study into whether the blood of recovered COVID-19 patients can be used to treat patients suffering from the disease.
The effort will also include researchers from nearly two dozen institutions, including the Mayo Clinic, Stanford University Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Arturo Casadevall, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, will lead the study.
“Johns Hopkins is committed to marshaling our clinical and research expertise to stem the tide of this devastating pandemic worldwide,” Ronald J. Daniels, the university’s president, said in a statement. “Dr. Casadevall, like so many other Hopkins researchers, is joining with partners across the globe in a race against the clock, and his work embodies to the fullest our university’s mission to serve humanity through discovery.”
Bloomberg Philanthropies, founded by Michael Bloomberg, will spend $3 million to back the study and Maryland will spend $1 million.
The study hopes to find out whether blood plasma from COVID-19 survivors can be used both as a treatment for critically ill patients who have the disease and as a way to boost the immune systems of health care providers and first responders.
There are no currently approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19. But the Food and Drug Administration has streamlined a lot of its regulatory practices in the hopes of finding ways to treat the pandemic-causing disease faster.
“Taking on the greatest public health challenge of our generation requires urgent and innovative collaboration,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “As scientists work to develop a vaccine, plasma treatment has the potential to save many lives – including the lives of doctors and health care workers on the front lines of the pandemic.”
Right now, researchers are working on finding and processing blood plasma from patients who have already recovered from the disease.
Local doctors and infectious disease experts will confirm that recovered patients have certain antibodies in their blood. The plasma can be harvested at a local Red Cross or the New York Blood Bank, a release said.
The study is also looking for patients who currently have COVID-19 and people who have not yet been infected for the study. It is also recruiting health care providers and others deemed to be at a high risk of contracting the disease.
“We are very fortunate that Maryland has some of the top health research facilities in the world, and I am confident in our state’s ability to be a leader in developing treatments and perhaps even a vaccine for COVID-19,” Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement. “I want to sincerely thank Bloomberg Philanthropies and Johns Hopkins University for working with our state to form this exciting public-private partnership, which will protect the health and well-being of our citizens and has the potential to save thousands of lives.”
This is not the only therapy or vaccine work underway in Maryland. The Maryland Tech Council has convened a collaboration of Maryland life sciences firms interested in working on therapies and vaccines for COVID-19.
Gaithersburg companies Novavax and Altimmune have said they are working on vaccines for the coronavirus. Another firm, Emergent Biosolutions, has at least two agreements to manufacture a vaccine, including an agreement with Novavax.