Grifols To Develop Plasma-Derived Treatment for COVID-19​​​​​​​

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Grifols, one of the world’s leading producers of plasma-based medicines, is collecting a blood product from recovered COVID-19 patients to develop a possible treatment for the coronavirus disease.

The Spanish company, which has a major presence in Clayton, says it is screening volunteer donors and will use their plasma to produce hyperimmune globulin. The product – with a high concentration of COVID-19 antibodies – could be used to treat the virus if it proves effective.

Grifols is collaborating with several federal health agencies on the project. They include the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research Authority. 

Hyperimmune globulins are medicines prepared from plasma with specific antibodies that can treat severe, difficult-to-manage infections. Grifols hopes the COVID-19 antibodies in the blood of patients who have recovered from the coronavirus can safely stimulate current patients’ immune systems to respond to the infection. 

Part of the company’s Clayton site is designed to process immunoglobulins to treat emerging infectious diseases. The facility was used for that purpose during the most recent Ebola outbreak in Liberia in 2014-2015.

Grifols' 233-acre manufacturing site in Clayton.
Grifols' 233-acre manufacturing site in Clayton. -- Grifols photo

“For individuals who have recovered from COVID-19, donating plasma at one of Grifols’ donor centers to produce a potential treatment for the disease is a way they can help make a difference during this exceptional time,” said Marilyn Rosa-Bray, M.D., Grifols’ chief medical officer and vice president of quality, regulatory compliance, and laboratories. “This hyperimmune globulin would offer to treat physicians predictable and consistent dosing of the antibody against the virus that causes COVID-19.”

Grifols said it is collecting plasma from potential donors in more than 100 cities across the country – including the Raleigh area – that have a high number of coronavirus cases. 

The company said recovered COVID-19 patients interested in donating should first visit the donor web page for information, and if they appear to be qualified, call the following toll free number: 1-866-END-CV19. They will be prescreened over the phone. 

Individuals who meet all prescreening conditions will be referred to a nearby Grifols Biomat USA plasma donation center. They will be tested to confirm a COVID-19 diagnosis and must be completely recovered for at least 28 days before contributing plasma. Or they must be symptom-free for 14 days and take a molecular test that shows they are negative for the virus.  

The National Institutes of Health will conduct clinical trials of the resulting hyperimmune globulin to see if it’s a viable treatment for COVID-19.

Grifols' investment in NC totals close to $1 billion

Grifols was founded in 1909 in Barcelona, Spain. It develops plasma-based therapies to treat chronic, rare and sometimes life-threatening conditions and has a growing network of donation centers worldwide.

Since coming to North Carolina in 2011, the company has invested close to $1 billion in its Clayton manufacturing site. It houses a plasma-fractionation plant and the world’s first purification, sterile filling and flexible packaging facility to produce immunoglobulin and factor VIII products. Factor VIII – a blood protein involved in clotting – treats the bleeding disorder hemophilia A.

Grifols has more than 24,000 employees worldwide. The company lists its class A share is on the Spanish Stock Exchange. Its non-voting class B shares appear on the U.S. NASDAQ exchange through American Depositary Receipts (ADRs). 

Bryant Haskins, NCBiotech Writer
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