NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Plasma therapy is being used to treat coronavirus patients, but it does have its issues.

Until a vaccine is developed, the more immediate pressing need is for an effective treatment that can save the lives of the hundreds of thousands sick with the virus, CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported.

High hopes for a treatment have come from convalescent plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients. Or, more precisely, the neutralizing antibodies their plasma contains. But promising as it is, there are significant limitations to using convalescent plasma as a large-scale therapy.

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A recovered volunteer patient who makes abundant neutralizing antibodies has to be identified. The donor has to be thoroughly screened to ensure they’re not carrying some other infectious disease. Plus, the patient and donor must be the same blood type.

The NYU Grossman School of Medicine and pharma giant Eli Lilly have circumvented those drawbacks. Using donor convalescent plasma, Lilly identified and cloned the gene needed for a powerful antibody that worked on SARS-COVID-2. In the lab that gene has been used to manufacture large quantities of the antibody that attaches to the spike the coronavirus uses to infect human cells.

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Now in the first-in-humans Phase 1 clinical trial at NYU, Dr. Mark Mulligan and colleagues began giving this cloned antibody drug to eight non-intubated, moderate-to-severe COVID-19 patients, primarily for safety and side effects but also hoping to see some effectiveness.

If this first phase goes well, doctors hope to begin a much larger series of trials around the country to prove that the drug, called LY-COV555, is in fact the first effective drug specifically designed to treat COVID-19.

For the top questions people have been asking about the coronavirus, visit cbsnewyork.com/max, and go to facebook.com/cbsnewyork to submit your question.

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