FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
UTHSCT PROFESSORS TO RECEIVE OVER $2 MILLION FROM NIH GRANT
FOR CONVALESCENT PLASMA RESEARCH TO COMBAT COVID-19
(Tyler, Texas)—The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler (UTHSCT) will receive more than $2 million in a grant allotment from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for convalescent plasma research to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Convalescent plasma is plasma received from recovered COVID-19 patients who have developed antibodies in their blood to fight off the virus.
UT Health Science Center Tyler faculty members, Dr. Julie Philley, UTHSCT pulmonologist and professor of medicine, and Dr. Megan Devine, UTHSCT pulmonologist and associate professor of medicine, are both principal investigators on the grant-funded research, along with UTHSCT Senior Vice President for Research and School of Medical Biological Sciences Dean Dr. Steven Idell.
“This study, supported by the NIH, will answer the questions if convalescent plasma helps prevent worsening lung symptoms—or death—in hospitalized COVID-19 patients,” Philley said.
“This research can have a major impact on public health and may provide needed treatment to slow the spread of the virus,” Philley said. “Supportive care is the mainstay for coronavirus disease—COVID-19—and the related pneumonia that is caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2—SARS-CoV-2. While promising, the effectiveness of convalescent plasma in this disease still needs to be proven.”
She explained that human convalescent plasma is a promising treatment option for COVID-19 and could be rapidly available once there are enough people who have recovered and who donate plasma containing high titer anti-SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing immunoglobulin .
The entire official title of the UTHSCT grant is “Convalescent Plasma to Limit Coronavirus-Associated Complications: A Randomized Blinded Phase 2 Study Comparing the Efficacy and Safety of Anti-SARS-CoV-2 Plasma to Placebo in COVID-19 hospitalized patients.”
UTHSCT’s allotment of over $2 million is part of an $8 million NIH grant that includes study sites in New York; Miami, Florida; and at UT Health Houston.
Enrollment begins next week, Philley said.
“This is a major impact study to rapidly identify one possible treatment for COVID-19 and the mortality associated with the disease,” said UTHSCT President Dr. Kirk A. Calhoun. “We are one of just a few institutions asked to do detailed work on carefully selected convalescent plasma. The fact we are assembling a great team of academic physicians here in East Texas, in support of our new medical school, is allowing us to participate in this way.”
Patients who meet clinical criteria will receive the convalescent plasma. The doctors will then study patient responses to the plasma to understand if their ability to fight the virus is enhanced with improvement of clinical disease.
The antibodies in the convalescent plasma from recovered patients are injected into sick patients to treat existing COVID-19 infection with the hope that administration of the plasma will provide immediate protection from the disease.
As part of the world-renowned University of Texas System, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler (UTHSCT) is a graduate school providing programs for those seeking careers in the medical field. UTHSCT offers Master of Science in Biotechnology, Master of Public Health and Master of Health Administration degrees, as well as residency programs for medical school graduates in family medicine, general surgery, internal medicine, occupational medicine, rural family medicine, general psychiatry and rural psychiatry. Psychology internships and fellowships are also available.
Graduate students, medical residents and other medical professionals-in-training develop marketable skills and qualifications to excel in the medical field as they learn alongside innovative scientists, physicians and other healthcare experts at UTHSCT and UT Health East Texas, a 10-hospital health system throughout East Texas. Led by Dr. Kirk A. Calhoun, MD, FACP, the university will soon become the home to the first medical school in East Texas, pending regulatory and accreditation approval. For more information visit www.uthct.edu.