MANILA, Philippines – Microsoft on Monday, April 20, US time, announced the launch of the CoVIg-19 Plasma Bot, "a self-screening tool that anyone can use to see if they qualify to donate their plasma."
The "Ig" in CoVIg-19 stands for immune globulin or the antibodies found in blood plasma. The bot is part of the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance program, which is a project funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to look at immunoglobulin therapy as a possible weapon against COVID-19. Members of the Alliance include plasma research firms Biotest, BPL, LFB, Octapharma, CSL Behring and Takeda.
"Like Microsoft did with the CDC Coronavirus Self-Checker bot and more than 1,300 other COVID-19 bots around the world, we’ve followed standard protocols to help guide individuals through the qualification and education process," said Microsoft.
In order to make the antibodies available to people, the program will be needing donors. The bot seeks to speed up the process by allowing the recovered COVID-19 patient themselves to find out if they are a qualified plasma donor. Recruitment, done through the CoVIg site, will start in the US, and then expand to Europe. Microsoft hasn't announced whether the program will expand further.
For Microsoft, it's their way of "helping survivors become heroes," as their announcement post's title goes.
With enough donations, the Alliance hopes to soon be able to manufacture a potential therapy and start the clinical trials. The trials will seek if the antibody therapy "could help high-risk COVID-19 patients recover and whether it could protect high-risk individuals from the disease."
Microsoft also said that the use of plasma is an old one, dating back to the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, and also recently used during the SARS outbreak.
"At Microsoft, we conducted a careful (but rapid) assessment, including consultation not only with our own experts but also several external partners. This assessment involved gaining an understanding of the underlying science and potential medical benefits. We are now convinced that the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance has a real chance to save lives, at significant scale, and possibly much sooner than other approaches currently being developed," the company said. – Rappler.com