Australian biotech giant CSL (ASX: CSL) has commenced development of an anti-SARS-CoV-2 plasma product that will use the antibodies of recovered COVID-19 patients to treat future cases of the coronavirus.
The product will be developed at CSL's manufacturing facility in Broadmeadows, Victoria, and has a working name of COVID-19 Immunoglobulin.
CSL's potential treatment will be developed using donations of plasma made in Australia by people who have recovered from COVID-19, chosen because of the high levels of antibodies (proteins that fight COVID-19) that exist in their plasma.
These antibodies will be pooled, purified and concentrated to make COVID-19 Immunoglobulin.
CSL estimates up to 800 plasma donations will be required to produce sufficient COVID-19 Immunoglobulin to treat 50 to 100 seriously ill people under the clinical trial.
Chief executive of the Australian Red Cross Shelly Park has encouraged those who have recovered from COVID-19 to volunteer their plasma for the project.
"Developing this new treatment requires plasma donations from people who have fully recovered from COVID-19, and whose plasma contains high levels of antibodies that can fight the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19," says Park.
"We are very proud to be part of this initiative which may ultimately help treat patients suffering from this terrible disease. I would encourage anyone who has recovered from a confirmed case of COVID-19 who thinks they may be eligible to donate to contact us."
CLS says its research into the potential treatment will be completed in two phases.
First, a small batch of COVID-19 Immunoglobulin will be produced and used to develop tests to detect the presence of the antibodies that fight the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
The second phase will see CSL, Australia's largest ASX-listed company, produce a larger batch of the product to be used in clinical trials in Australian hospitals.
Once the clinical trial is complete CSL will seek to register COVID-19 Immunoglobulin with the Therapeutic Goods Association to ensure ongoing supply in Australia.
The need for a treatment like COVID-19 Immunoglobulin is becoming more important than ever as Australia begins to consider relaxing some of the more restrictive gathering rules and prepares for the economy to reopen.
When that happens the Government hopes to be ready for a wave of community transmission of COVID-19, meaning a treatment for the virus will be a necessary tool to fight back an expected spike in cases.
While a vaccine is our best bet for the majority of the population to avoid the numerous complications that can arise from contracting COVID-19, a proven treatment will go a long way in giving governments globally confidence to relax restrictions.
This coronavirus has proven in recent days how easily it can get out of control; the 49 confirmed cases from the Cedar Meats facility in Victoria are just the latest emblem for how contagious this virus can be.
It also comes as Australia's effective rate of reproduction rate (ERR) goes back above one to 1.04.
Australia's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy has previously outlined how, in order to relax restrictions, the country must conistently keep the ERR below one, meaning every person with COVID-19 infects no more than one other person.
Globally a treatment for COVID-19 will be welcome, especially in countries that are struggling to contain the coronavirus.
Overnight the UK surpassed Italy's death toll, with 29,427 deaths compared to Italy's 29,315.
The United States also continues to struggle with COVID-19, with 1.2 million confirmed cases and 71,670 deaths (up 2,748 from yesterday).
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