Wayne State begins COVID-19 plasma studies; vaccine research expanded at Henry Ford, Beaumont, Michigan Medicine

Ella Castle

COVID-19 treatment and vaccine clinical research is continuing in Southeast Michigan as Wayne State University, Henry Ford Health System, Beaumont Health and Michigan Medicine begin additional studies in an attempt to find biological ways to end the world’s worst pandemic in more than 100 years. Earlier this month, two outpatient […]

COVID-19 treatment and vaccine clinical research is continuing in Southeast Michigan as Wayne State University, Henry Ford Health System, Beaumont Health and Michigan Medicine begin additional studies in an attempt to find biological ways to end the world’s worst pandemic in more than 100 years.

Earlier this month, two outpatient studies of treatments that use blood plasma from people who have had the disease — known as convalescent plasma — began this month at Wayne State under Dr. James Paxton, the primary investigator leading the clinical trial. The study is seeking volunteers.

One WSU study seeks to use the coronavirus neutralizing antibodies contained in plasma to protect people who have been recently exposed to COVID-19 but haven’t yet become ill. The second study will use the antibody-filled plasma on recently diagnosed people who have not been admitted to a hospital, in hopes that it will slow or eliminate COVID-19 symptoms.

“We are trying to find out if human coronavirus plasma can prevent hospitalizations and deaths,” said Paxton, who also is an emergency physician at DMC Sinai-Grace and Detroit Receiving hospitals.

The three-month study that aims to recruit at least 1,400 volunteers nationwide is sponsored through Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Wayne State is one of 24 participating research entities and the only site in Michigan.

Convalescent plasma is the liquid portion of the blood collected from people who have recovered from COVID-19. After fighting the novel SARS-Cov-2 coronavirus, plasma from recovered people may contain high levels of antibodies that could help someone else fight the virus.

COVID-19 vaccine studies are also being conducted at several Southeast Michigan hospitals. Last week, Pfizer announced its vaccine is more than 90 percent effective and could be released in limited quantities before the end of the year if the continuing study confirms its effectiveness.

In late October, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson separately announced that have restarted U.S. clinical trials on their coronavirus vaccine candidates. The drug companies had paused their trials due to safety issues with volunteers.

Henry Ford Health has begun a second Phase 3 vaccine trial with Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceutical Co. The double-blind, placebo-controlled research study, called ENSEMBLE, is testing the vaccine JNJ-78436735, which is also known as Ad26.COV2.S.

Last month, Henry Ford researchers completed its recruitment of volunteers for the Moderna COVE vaccine trial. Moderna said in an Oct. 22 statement that it would decide whether to request an emergency use authorization for the vaccine by the end of the year when it submit results of its study to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Volunteers can contact Henry Ford about the Johnson & Johnson trial by clicking here. Some 60,000 adults in the U.S. and elsewhere are participating, including large numbers of people over age 60, the drug company said.

“We are honored to be one of only three sites in Michigan to participate in Phase 3 trials for Janssen’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate,” said Dr. Adnan Munkarah, Henry Ford’s chief clinical officer, in a statement. “We believe participating in this latest trial is an important part of our effort to stop this global pandemic.”

Beaumont also has begun testing AstraZeneca’s AZD1222 in a Phase 3 trial, officials said.

“Because there is currently no FDA-approved vaccine to prevent COVID-19, we’re eager to have Beaumont participate as one of the trial sites,” Dr. Christopher Carpenter, principal investigator for the study site and chair of the department of medicine at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, said in a statement. “We’re hopeful the study will attract a diverse group of participants.”

Volunteers can contact Beaumont about the AZ trial by clicking here. The AZD1222 vaccine study is seeking about 40,000 participants nationwide. Those who meet the study criteria will receive two injections four weeks apart.

Michigan Medicine also has launched a second COVID-19 vaccine study with Johnson & Johnson’s ENSEMBLE study. The Ann Arbor-based provider also has restarted its AstraZeneca vaccine trial, officials said.

“Michigan Medicine is committed to supporting the continued study of the investigational Janssen vaccine and other vaccine candidates,” said Marschall Runge, dean of UM Medical School and CEO for Michigan Medicine, in a statement. “These trials are crucial to moving us toward an effective vaccine.”

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