CHAPEL HILL — Americans who have recovered from COVID-19 may help save others from the disease by donating their convalescent plasma at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, or at plasma donor sites operated elsewhere around the country by the global biotherapeutics company Grifols.
Grifols, which has more than 2,000 employees in North Carolina, has begun identifying, screening and selecting volunteer donors who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate their plasma in select U.S. cities, none currently in N.C.
The University of North Carolina Convalescent Plasma Task Force at the UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill, however, is collecting convalescent plasma from donors to treat patients critically ill with COVID-19.
As part of the UNC Convalescent Plasma Task Force, UNC School of Medicine researchers will study the antibody responses of patients who receive plasma donated through the UNC Blood Donation Center. The goal is to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible about the mechanisms by which antibodies help patients recover.
Eligible donors must have tested positive for COVID-19 (PCR positive swab) and be at least 14 days from the resolution of symptoms. If individuals are between 14 and 28 days from onset of symptoms, they would need to receive a second COVID-19 swab to confirm that they test negative.
Plasma collection will take place at UNC in Chapel Hill each Saturday by appointment only.
Potential donors must also meet all criteria for typical blood donation. To be screened to donate plasma, individuals are asked to complete the screening questionnaire here.
Interested participants can also email questions to CCP_UNC@med.unc.edu.
GRIFOLS COLLECTING PLASMA IN SEVERAL ‘HOT SPOT’ CITIES
Currently, Grifols is focusing on collecting convalescent plasma from donors in cities that had a high number of COVID-19 cases earlier in the outbreak. These cities and their surrounding areas include Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, San Antonio, San Diego and Seattle. The Raleigh donation center location is not currently accepting the COVID-19 convalescent plasma, according to a company representative at the site.
The company said additional cities will be added in the future. It has a network of about 300 U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved plasma donor centers nationally. The company said it will build a new facility in Clayton to process the collected convalescent plasma.
“For individuals who have recovered from COVID-19, donating plasma at one of Grifols’ donor centers to produce a potential treatment for the disease is a way they can help make a difference during this exceptional time,” said Marilyn Rosa-Bray, M.D., Grifols chief medical officer and vice president for quality, regulatory compliance and laboratories.
The plasma will be used to produce a hyperimmune globulin that, if proven effective, could potentially treat the disease. The initiative is a result of a collaboration involving Grifols, the FDA, the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research Authority, and other federal health agencies.
Hyperimmune globulins are plasma-derived medicines that are effective in the treatment of severe acute infections. Through the concentration of antibodies from plasma collected from recovered COVID-19 individuals, the hyperimmune globulin can offer precise and consistent dosing with high purity, high potency and a strong safety profile that may help current patients’ immune systems respond to the infection.
“This hyperimmune globulin would offer treating physicians a predictable and consistent dosing of the antibody against the virus that causes COVID-19,” Rosa-Bray said in a news release.
NEW CLAYTON FACILITY WILL SUPPORT SAFE USE OF THE PLASMA
Grifols said it will provide support for the use of the convalescent plasma for transfusion at a new Clayton facility. It will use its viral inactivation technology, methylene blue, to ensure safe plasma units for treatment use.
Grifols opened a $400 million plasma-fractionation plant in Clayton in 2014 and is building a new, $90 million fractionation facility there that is scheduled to open in 2021.
The company is also building a $120 million purification and filling facility in Clayton that will mainly produce immune globulin and factor VIII protein therapies. The three-story, 150,000-square-foot facility is scheduled to begin operating in 2022.
The expansions are making the Clayton site one of the world’s largest manufacturing plants for plasma-derived medicines. With more than 1,600 employees, the site is the largest employer in Johnston County.
Grifols also has a bioscience division headquarters facility in Research Triangle Park that employs more than 400 people.
Founded in Barcelona in 1909, Grifols has more than 24,000 employees in 30 countries and regions, and its products are sold in more than 100 countries through four divisions: bioscience, diagnostic, hospital and bio supplies.
Recovered COVID-19 individuals interested in donating in the select cities should call 1-866-END-CV19 where Grifols specialists will pre-screen potential donors and direct them to their local Grifols plasma donor center.