Microsoft launches new 'Plasma Bot' to help with COVID-19 treatment
In a bid to help with the treatment of the novel coronavirus disease, Microsoft has launched a new 'Plasma Bot'. The system works just like the automated symptom-checker of the company but focuses on determining your eligibility for donating plasma, which could ultimately help scientists devise a reliable convalescent plasma-based therapy for critical COVID-19 patients. Here's all about it.
The work on COVID-19 vaccines/drugs is going on, but it is not moving fast enough to match the spread of the virus, which is claiming thousands of lives daily. However, amid all this, the century-old convalescent plasma therapy, which involves transfusion of blood plasma from recovered patients, has shown promise, with mounting clinical evidence suggesting it could help COVID-19 patients get better quickly.
Owing to the growing evidence, Microsoft is now helping the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance - formed by leading biotech companies like Biotest, BPL, and LFB - develop a new "polyclonal hyperimmune globulin" plasma therapy. The method relies on blood plasma but instead of transfusing it directly into sick patients, it revolves around pooling multiple samples to concentrate the antibodies and create a reliable COVID-19 medication.
To get the work on this medication started, Microsoft has launched the Plasma Bot as a way to collect samples from people who have recovered from COVID-19. The tool, accessible through the alliance website and eventually on web/social/search channels, throws a series of questions to determine if you qualify as a potential plasma donor and then directs you to the closest collection center.
Notably, the questions put up by the Plasma Bot to determine donation eligibility will also include those around the person's medications for allergies and other conditions. This will help the company rule out unhealthy candidates and collect samples only from those who are healthy and have recovered completely from a COVID-19 infection, presumably with a high anti-body count.
Once sufficient samples from donors are collected, the medication will have to go through clinical trials to be approved for use on COVID-19 patients. "The sooner recovered COVID-19 patients donate convalescent plasma, the sooner the Alliance may be able to start manufacturing a potential therapy and begin clinical trials," the company said, adding that "these trials will determine if this therapy could treat patients."
If successfully developed, Microsoft says, the new plasma-based medication could take less time to administer to patients. Additionally, it would also minimize the risk of any known virus or bacteria passing from donor to patient and promise a longer shelf-life for easy storage and shipping.