Hackensack Meridian Health Convalescent Plasma Work for COVID-19 Treatments Enters Next Phase of Study

December 21, 2020

Treatments using antibodies of pandemic survivors enters new Phase 2 evaluation

Researchers and clinical experts at Hackensack Meridian Health, New Jersey’s largest and most comprehensive health network, continue their work on convalescent plasma treatments for COVID-19 patients – now with a new Phase 2 study.

The researchers at John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center, and their colleagues at the Hackensack Meridian Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI) continue Phase 2 testing of the clinical treatments – now in an outpatient setting to treat earlier and help the infected avoid hospitalization.

The scientists and clinicians believe treating as early as possible in an outpatient setting may help survival.

“Our researchers and clinicians are moving the needle,” said Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, chief executive officer of Hackensack Meridian Health. “What they’ve done for patients in Hackensack with convalescent plasma has gotten national recognition, and we’re proud to support their vital work.”

“From the initial wave of SARS-CoV-2 and onward, we have sought to save as many lives as possible,” said Michele Donato, M.D., FACP, CPE, chief of stem cell transplantation and cellular therapy at John Theurer Cancer Center, part of Hackensack University Medical Center, and who is leading the potential treatment part of the work. “We believe we are achieving that goal.”

The convalescent plasma program at Hackensack University Medical Center identifies the “super donors” with the greatest levels of highly-neutralizing antibodies, independently validated, as determined through methodology developed by CDI experts.

What may separate the Hackensack-based trial from other convalescent plasma trials across the nation is the application of higher levels of highly-neutralizing antibodies from survivors’ plasma – those of the so-called “super donors” whose natural defenses may hold the secret to more successfully treating the infection.

The new Phase 2 study is for infusing this potentially valuable serum into patients with early-stage COVID-19 infection who have at least one major risk factor for serious disease, in an outpatient setting. The goal is to treat the patients in the first 96 hours – with the aim to prevent hospitalization entirely.

Convalescent plasma treatments have previously been used to fight other viral outbreaks, including those of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), caused by a virus that’s a cousin to the one responsible for COVID-19, and which sickened thousands in 2002-2003.

The program in Hackensack was profiled early in the pandemic by major media outlets, including the TV newsmagazine 60 Minutes.

Taking part in this work are personnel from Hackensack Meridian John Theurer Cancer Center including Donato, who are experts in stem cell transplantation and cellular therapy, as well as scientists from the CDI, who developed the high-titer test to assess the presence and levels of the antibodies.

“Our program has strived to set a high bar for the science behind convalescent plasma and optimize its use for COVID-19 treatment,” said David S. Perlin, Ph.D., the chief scientific officer and senior vice president of the CDI.

“We continue to use our best expertise in combating this global health crisis,” said Ihor Sawczuk, M.D., FACS, president of Hackensack Meridian Health’s Northern Market, and the chief research officer of the network. “That expertise is considerable, and we expect it to make a world of difference for our patients.”

ABOUT HACKENSACK MERIDIAN HEALTH

Hackensack Meridian Health is a leading not-for-profit health care organization that is the largest, most comprehensive and truly integrated health care network in New Jersey, offering a complete range of medical services, innovative research and life-enhancing care.

Hackensack Meridian Health comprises 17 hospitals from Bergen to Ocean counties, which includes three academic medical centers – Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, JFK Medical Center in Edison; two children’s hospitals – Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital in Hackensack, K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital in Neptune; nine community hospitals – Bayshore Medical Center in Holmdel, Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair, Ocean Medical Center in Brick, Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, Pascack Valley Medical Center in Westwood, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Old Bridge, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy, Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, and Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin; a behavioral health hospital – Carrier Clinic in Belle Mead; and two rehabilitation hospitals – JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute in Edison and Shore Rehabilitation Institute in Brick.

Additionally, the network has more than 500 patient care locations throughout the state which include ambulatory care centers, surgery centers, home health services, long-term care and assisted living communities, ambulance services, lifesaving air medical transportation, fitness

and wellness centers, rehabilitation centers, urgent care centers and physician practice locations. Hackensack Meridian Health has more than 36,000 team members, and over 7,000 physicians and is a distinguished leader in health care philanthropy, committed to the health and well-being of the communities it serves.

The network’s notable distinctions include having four hospitals among the top in New Jersey by U.S. News and World Report. Other honors include consistently achieving Magnet® recognition for nursing excellence from the American Nurses Credentialing Center and being named to Becker’s Healthcare’s “150 Top Places to Work in Healthcare/2019” list.

The Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine opened in 2018, the first private medical school in New Jersey in more than 50 years, welcomed its third class of students in 2020 to its On3 campus in Nutley and Clifton. Additionally, the network partnered with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to find more cures for cancer faster while ensuring that patients have access to the highest quality, most individualized cancer care when and where they need it.

Hackensack Meridian Health is a member of AllSpire Health Partners, an interstate consortium of leading health systems, to focus on the sharing of best practices in clinical care and achieving efficiencies.

For additional information, please visit www.HackensackMeridianHealth.org.

 

About the Center for Discovery and Innovation

The Center for Discovery and Innovation, a newly established member of Hackensack Meridian Health, seeks to translate current innovations in science to improve clinical outcomes for patients with cancer, infectious diseases and other life-threatening and disabling conditions. The CDI, housed in a fully renovated state-of-the-art facility, offers world-class researchers a support infrastructure and culture of discovery that promotes science innovation and rapid translation to the clinic.

 

About John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center

John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center is New Jersey’s largest and most comprehensive center dedicated to the diagnosis, treatment, management, research, screenings, and preventive care as well as survivorship of patients with all types of cancers. The 14 specialized divisions covering the complete spectrum of cancer care have developed a close-knit team of medical, research, nursing, and support staff with specialized expertise that translates into more advanced, focused care for all patients. Each year, more people in the New

Jersey/New York metropolitan area turn to John Theurer Cancer Center for cancer care than to any other facility in New Jersey. John Theurer Cancer Center is a member of the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center Consortium, one of just 16 NCI-approved cancer research consortia based at the nation’s most prestigious institutions. Housed within a 775-bed not-for-profit teaching, tertiary care, and research hospital, John Theurer Cancer Center provides state-of-the-art technological advances, compassionate care, research innovations, medical expertise, and a full range of aftercare services that distinguish John Theurer Cancer Center from other facilities. For additional information, please visit www.jtcancercenter.org.