Clues, treatments could be in the antibodies of those who have recovered or are recovering
April 10, 2020 – Nutley, NJ – Researchers and clinical experts at Hackensack Meridian Health, New Jersey’s largest and most comprehensive health network, are looking into the blood of COVID-19 survivors, as a potential treatment for current COVID-19 patients.
The work will scrutinize the antibodies within the serum of the surviving patients, in an attempt to discover more about the disease, and perhaps develop new ways to fight it.
“I’m so proud of our robust and innovative response to this unprecedented global challenge, from our front-line care teams to our support staff, and our exceptional researchers,” said Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, chief executive officer of Hackensack Meridian Health. “Our scientists have been at the forefront of the latest innovations, including developing our own test and taking part in clinical trials of antiviral drugs. Now they’re taking a leadership role in this advanced antibody work, which could prove to be a breakthrough.”
“It really is a race against time,” 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. “People are getting sick right now, and we are working night and day to save as many lives as possible.”
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.
At Hackensack Meridian Health, the researchers will first seek a small blood sample from those recovered or recovering patients who volunteer for the study, with the goal of finding those who developed the highest levels of targeted antibodies in response to the virus.
Those patients with the highest level of antibodies will be asked to return to provide a larger plasma donation, which may be utilized to infuse into very sick COVID-19 patients.
Taking part in this work will be experts from Hackensack Meridian John Theurer Cancer Center including Donato, who are experts in stem cell transplantation and cellular therapy, as well as scientists from Hackensack Meridian Health Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI), who have developed a high-titer test to assess the presence and levels of the antibodies. The CDI also previously developed a diagnostic test for detecting the virus which has been used to diagnose more than a thousand patients so far in the Hackensack Meridian Heath network.
“This is applied science in ‘real-time,’ as this pandemic continues to spread,” said David S. Perlin, Ph.D., the chief scientific officer and senior vice president of the CDI. “Our scientists at the CDI are responding to needs, and we’re hoping to save lives.”
“Research at Hackensack Meridian Health is more important than ever, and we are hopeful it will give us the edge against this pandemic,” said Ihor Sawczuk, M.D., FACS, president of Hackensack Meridian Health's Northern Market, and the chief research officer of the network.
The patients sought for the studies will be between the ages of 18 and 60, and have a prior laboratory diagnosis of COVID-19. They must also be at least 14 days without symptoms, according to the guidelines.
Potential donors can fill out an online form available here for the initial screening.
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 34,100 team members, and 6,500 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 10 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 at Seton Hall University, the first private medical school in New Jersey in more than 50 years, welcomed its first class of students in 2018 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 CenterJohn 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.