The charity created by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has donated $3 million to fund research that could help treat the COVID-19 infection, the Hogan administration announced on Friday.
The grant will allow a prominent Johns Hopkins University researcher, Dr. Arturo Casadevall, to investigate whether blood plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 can be used to help treat critically ill patients and boost the immune systems of health care providers and first responders, the state said in a news release.
The strategy of isolating plasma is a long-established technology, and recent advances make it as safe as a blood transfusion, officials added.
“Taking on the greatest public health challenge of our generation requires urgent and innovative collaboration,” Bloomberg in a statement.
“As scientists work to develop a vaccine, plasma treatment has the potential to save many lives – including the lives of doctors and healthcare workers on the front lines of the pandemic.”
Currently there are no proven drug therapies or effective vaccines for treating COVID-19.
Casadevall is an infectious disease expert and Bloomberg Distinguished Professor who holds joint appointments in the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
Over the last couple weeks, he and a team of physicians and scientists from around the United States have been creating a network of hospitals and blood banks that can begin collecting, isolating, and processing blood plasma from COVID-19 survivors.
In an interview, Dr. Jeffrey A. Elting, an infectious disease expert and a former White House physician, called Hopkins “an excellent partner that has a track record of delivering practical medical applications to address health care challenges.”
The state of Maryland supplemented the $3 million gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies with an additional $1 million.