The European Union (EU) has made available up to 40 million euros ($47.1 million) to purchase specialized equipment to increase the collection of plasma from COVID-19 survivors for the treatment of people who contract the disease, the European Commission said Friday in a statement.
The EU urged over 200 blood collection services around the bloc to apply for funding for the purchase of plasmapheresis equipment, which extracts plasma from donors. It said the aim is to support the treatment of new COVID-19 patients who are fighting the disease, by increasing EU capacity to collect convalescent plasma from recovered patients.
It explained that at present, almost three-quarters of plasma collected is done through donations of whole blood, from which the plasma is then separated. This is a much less efficient collection method compared with plasmapheresis, which is a bedside process where plasma is taken from the donor while the other blood components are returned to the donor.
In the case of plasmapheresis, donors can donate higher volumes of plasma at one time and can donate once every two weeks instead of every three or four months.
Plasma transfusion is also used to purify antibodies to make a COVID-19 specific medicinal product as a short-term alternative to vaccines. The efficacy of these treatments is being investigated worldwide, including in an EU research project.
The EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides said this action shows the Commission's commitment to developing therapeutics.
Earlier in February, convalescent plasma therapy was developed for COVID-19 treatment in China as an alternative when there is no specific drug or vaccine against the coronavirus. The promising treatment has been shared and further studied around the world.
According to a study published in Cell on May 17, Chinese researchers have successfully identified multiple highly potent neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, from convalescent plasma by high-throughput single-cell sequencing.