Gates Foundation announces support to Ebola-affected countries to accelerate evaluation of potential treatments

Nov. 24, 2014

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will be supporting efforts in Guinea and other Ebola-affected countries to scale up the production and evaluation of convalescent plasma and other convalescent blood products as potential therapies for people infected with the Ebola virus. Various drug candidates will also be evaluated. The foundation has committed $5.7 million to launch the effort, and specific trial designs and locations will be confirmed in coordination with national health authorities and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Convalescent plasma combined with pathogen inactivation technology represents a potential pathway to the development of an effective treatment for people infected with Ebola. The Gates Foundation is providing funding to Clinical Research Management, Inc., (ClinicalRM) and a broad array of private sector partners to study Ebola convalescent plasma that will be donated by Ebola survivors, in accordance with recent WHO guidance. The convalescent plasma will be collected through mobile donation units fully equipped with Haemonetics PCS2 plasma collection systems and the Cerus INTERCEPT pathogen inactivation blood system.

Until recently, convalescent plasma therapy was limited to transfusing whole blood collected from the survivor directly into the patient. Now the best way to collect these antibodies is through plasmapheresis. This process uses a device to remove some blood from the donor and save only the liquid part, or plasma, containing antibodies. The rest of the blood is returned to donors via infusion, which allows them to donate significantly more anti-Ebola antibodies than could be obtained via a whole blood donation. Use of plasmapheresis also allows survivors to donate every two weeks. By contrast, survivors who donate whole blood cannot volunteer for plasmapheresis for at least another three months, according to WHO guidance.

Key industry and foundation partners in the effort include Abbott Laboratories; BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company); Biotest AG; Blood Bank Computer Systems, Inc. (BBCS); Blood Centers of America; Cerus Corporation; CSL Behring; Fenwal, Inc.; Fisher Scientific; Grifols; Haemonetics Corporation; Helmer Scientific; Terumo BCT; and Welch Allyn, Inc. Learn more about these companies’ involvement and about the Gates Foundation effort.

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