Microsoft creates Plasma Bot to fight COVID-19

Antibodies in lab
Polyclonal hyperimmune globulin treatments, also known as H-Ig, are manufactured by pooling together multiple plasma donations to concentrate antibodies. (Takeda Photo)

Microsoft is teaming up with the world’s leading plasma companies to streamline the process of developing an antibody-based therapy for COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.

The Seattle-area software giant’s contribution takes the form of an app called the CoVIg-19 Plasma Bot, a self-screening tool that puts people who have recovered from COVID-19 in touch with plasma collection centers across the United States. The effort could lead to a new type of therapy for the disease, known as polyclonal hyperimmune globulin or H-Ig.

Blood plasma from survivors of other types of infectious disease is known to have a therapeutic effect, thanks to the antibodies that those survivors developed in the course of fighting off pathogens. Early indications suggest that convalescent plasma could have a beneficial effect for COVID-19 patients as well, and clinical trials are underway to confirm those results.

H-Ig takes the concept a step further by pooling multiple plasma donations, concentrating the antibodies and purifying the solution. The purification process minimizes the risk of contamination, and because the medicine is concentrated, it can be delivered in lower volumes and less time. H-Ig medications also have a longer shelf life than plasma, which allows for easier storage and shipping.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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