The first three patients treated with a new COVID-19 “passive vaccine,” which was developed by Hadassah Medical Center and the Israeli biopharmaceutical firm Kamada, demonstrated rapid, clinical benefit and have already been released from the hospital to their homes, Hadassah reported on Thursday.
“For three months now, despite the initial opposition of the former director-general of the Health Ministry, Hadassah has been collecting plasma donations from coronavirus patients,” Hadassah head Prof. Zeev Rotstein said.
Specifically, the plasma was collected with the help of the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) organization Yad Avraham and the haredi community. Patients who tested negative for the novel coronavirus twice and showed high levels of antibodies in their blood were asked to donate. Those who develop any virus, including the novel coronavirus, develop special antivirus proteins or antibodies in their plasma, which can help sick patients cope with the disease. According to webmd.com, plasma is the yellow, liquid portion of blood that carries important proteins, minerals, nutrients and hormones to the right places in your body, making up more than half of the blood.
The plasma donations were collected by the blood bank at Hadassah and then transferred, together with doses collected by Magen David Adom, to the Kamada company, where appropriate antibodies were produced for the experimental treatment.
Kamada used the plasma to produce what it calls its “anti-SARS-CoV-2 plasma-derived immunoglobulin (IgG) product.”
Passive immunization is when you are given antibodies formed by another patient who got the disease and developed them. An active vaccine, in contrast, is when you are injected with a dead or weakened version of an actual virus that tricks your immune system into thinking that you have the disease, and your immune system creates antibodies to protect you.
Jerusalem, where Hadassah is located, has had the country’s highest number of sick patients. As of Saturday night, according to the Health Ministry, 15,542 people have been infected in the Holy City.
Rotstein said that the vaccine, which could also be called a medicine, is being targeted toward COVID-19 patients whose situation is worsening and need a booster to fight the disease. However, it may also be used prophylactically in cases where a high-risk patient contracts coronavirus and the hospital wants to stop the disease’s progression.
“It is evident that the Hadassah team is very satisfied with the clinical research,” said Dr. Asa Kessler, a physician in the hospital's coronavirus unit. He said the plasma is being distributed to COVID-19 patients who develop pneumonia and “for now, we are very encouraged.”
Until now, Hadassah has been distributing the plasma through the country’s compassionate use program. It is not the only hospital testing Kamada's treatment. In total around a dozen patients are getting the treatment.
Last week, Kamada announced that the first patient had been recruited to its Phase 1/2 clinical trial of its new product as a potential treatment for COVID-19 in Israel. The study was approved by the Health Ministry and will assess the treatment’s safety, pharmacokinetics (the movement of drugs within the body), and pharmacodynamics (the drug’s effects and mechanism of action) in hospitalized, non-ventilated COVID-19 patients with pneumonia. A total of 12 eligible patients will be enrolled and then tracked for 84 days.
In parallel, Kamada intends to further explore the potential of its IgG product to prevent COVID-19 disease in healthy, at-risk subjects in a separate study, its website said.
Rotstein said that these preliminary results should “raise hope in Israel and around the world.”