COVID-19 Plasma Alliance Led by Microsoft’s Self-Screening Tool
All hands are on deck among the major tech and AI companies across America in addressing COVID-19, including Microsoft. The Seattle-area software giant’s contribution takes the form of an app called the CoVIg-19 Plasma Bot, a self-screening tool that connects those who’ve recovered from COVID-19 with plasma collection centers nationwide.
Alan Boyle writing for geekwire.com explains what the COVIG Plasma Alliance is and hopes to do.
“At Microsoft, we conducted a careful (but rapid) assessment, including consultation not only with our own experts but also several external partners,” leaders of Microsoft’s Plasma Bot team said today in a blog post about the project. “This assessment involved gaining an understanding of the underlying science and potential medical benefits. We are now convinced that the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance has a real chance to save lives, at significant scale, and possibly much sooner than other approaches currently being developed.”
Partners in the CoVIg Plasma Alliance include Biotest, BPL, LFB and Octapharma along with CSL Behring and Takeda. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is providing advisory support.
While there have been so many questions and doubts raised on every aspect of this virus, one thing researchers agree on that a person who survived a bout of the COVID-19 virus would be able to produce enough antibodies to help four other people fight the virus. Boyle describes the thinking behind Microsoft’s app and why the excitement over the effort that could lead to a new type of therapy for the disease, known as polyclonal hyperimmune globulin or H-Ig.
Blood plasma from survivors of other types of infectious disease is known to have a therapeutic effect, thanks to the antibodies that those survivors developed in the course of fighting off pathogens. Early indications suggest that convalescent plasma could have a beneficial effect for COVID-19 patients as well, and clinical trials are underway to confirm those results.
H-Ig takes the concept a step further by pooling multiple plasma donations, concentrating the antibodies and purifying the solution. The purification process minimizes the risk of contamination, and because the medicine is concentrated, it can be delivered in lower volumes and less time. H-Ig medications also have a longer shelf life than plasma, which allows for easier storage and shipping.
The article in geekwire.com says Plasma Bot follows the model that Microsoft used for more than 1,300 COVID-19 chatbots used around the world, including the CDC Coronavirus Self-Checker. If you’ve recovered from a confirmed case of COVID-19, you just click on the “Get Started” button on the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance’s website. You’ll be guided through a series of screening questions, and if you qualify, you can type in your ZIP code to be put in touch with a nearby plasma collection center.
Over 70,000 people are known to have survived the virus. Once testing gets underway, the total number of infected people expected from the 2020 pandemic is anyone’s guess.
read more at geekwire.com