FDA approves Amazon-backed Columbia study of Covid-19 plasma therapy

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The US Food and Drug Administration has just given the green light to a clinical trial at Columbia University to determine if the plasma collected from survivors of Covid-19 can effectively protect healthcare workers on the front line and alleviate symptoms in critically ill people.

The study is funded by $ 2.5 million from Amazon.

Using convalescent plasma – a component of the blood – as a treatment is a decades-old idea and has been used to treat other illnesses like the flu and measles. When a patient recovers from an illness, they produce antibodies to fight the presence of the antigen that causes the illness, and these proteins will stay in the blood for a few months.

The hope is that the plasma from recovered coronavirus patients can be transfused to critically ill patients, which will help them recover more quickly. It could also help health workers to develop some immunity. It is not an alternative to a vaccine, but researchers believe the approach has potential.

The trials will be led by epidemiologist Dr Ian Lipkin, MD, a professor at Columbia Mailman School – and one of the key advisers behind the film “Contagion” – in collaboration with the Center for Infection and Immunity, the school of health. at Columbia University, Columbia Irving Medical Center and the New York Blood Center.

Columbia is not the first research site to test plasma, but New York may be an ideal site given the number of people in the region who have been exposed to the virus. New York was one of the first Covid-19 hotspots, with more than 145,000 confirmed cases.

Throughout the trial, 450 people – critically ill patients, close contacts of these patients and health workers – will receive either convalescent plasma or a placebo.

“We appreciate the FDA’s approval of this trial, which has the potential to help us protect brave frontline healthcare workers and first responders during this crisis,” Lipkin said in a statement.

“Plasma therapy is a long-established approach developed by Paul Ehrlich and Emil von Behring for the treatment of diphtheria and recognized in 1901 by the first Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. Just as Covid-19 brought us back to classical methods of fighting epidemics, containment as well as isolation, thanks to a new use, we are rediscovering the salvage potential of a classic strategy like plasmatherapy, “he said. for follow-up.

Amazon’s cloud and healthcare teams have decided to support a variety of promising projects to test and treat Covid-19. Among other things, Amazon Web Services has donated $ 20 million to support the development of diagnostic solutions.

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