In a showing of national interest, Sunnybrook’s community of donors cooperated rather rapidly to raise over $1 million, along with others in Canada and the U.S. for a promising “pan-Canadian” COVID-19 clinical trial logistically directed by a research team at Sunnybrook led by Dr. Jeannie Callum, a transfusion specialist and clinician researcher. The Convalescent Plasma for COVID-19 Research (CONCOR-1) trial involves as many as 60 sites across Canada as well as the United States to investigate the therapeutic use of convalescent plasma, the portion of the blood that contains antibodies, found in the plasma of recovered patients that potentially binds and neutralizes SARS-CoV-2.
Diverse Group Helps Contribute to CONCOR-1
Much like the nationwide convalescent plasma trial led by Michael Joyner at Mayo Clinic, individuals and businesses, as well as philanthropic non-profits across Toronto—and beyond—have united around this important cause to stop COVID-19 and save lives. BMO Financial Group stepped up with a $300,000 gift and leading financial services donor to Sunnybrook’s CONCOR-1 efforts. Contributions arose from a diverse array of groups from the Slaight Family Foundation, Liu Fu Yu Charity Foundation, Don and Nita Reed Family Foundation, Kinross Gold Corporation, Amica Helping Hands Charity and Middlefield Group, as examples of contributors to this important study.
A collaboration between a team of immunologists, hematologists, transfusion experts, infectious diseases and critical-care specialists at Sunnybrook, McMaster University, CHU Sainte-Justine hospital, Canadian Blood Services, Héma-Québec and other academic partners across Canada and the U.S. Serving as the logistical lead, Sunnybrook directs the effort with all participating centers in Canada outside of Québec where the CHU Sainte-Justine hospital is the logistical lead, in what is truly a national effort. Within Québec, the philanthropic community serves as a lead including Power Corporation of Canada driving funding raising efforts.
The study will include 1,200 patients from participating medical centers across Canada and requires approximately 650 plasma donors. The study teams at the site level will recruit and enroll participants who have recovered from COVID-19 as a potential treatment for patients who are acutely ill with the virus. Using a specialized collection device, the plasma is collected from the donor and then tested to ensure it has enough antibodies. Thereafter, teams at the site level freeze and send the plasma to hospitals for injection into patients with COVID-19 who are ill enough to require hospitalization. To date, over 100 recovered patients have donated plasma, and four centers in Canada are already open to recruitment, with many more expected to start recruiting in the next 10 days.
Toronto Resident Donates & Participates in CONCOR-1
Richard Carl, a Toronto resident, married and father of three grown sons, recently was the first recovered COVID-19 patient in Toronto to donate plasma as part of the CONCOR-1 trial. Four out of five of his family members were all diagnosed with COVID-19 after a family ski trip to Colorado in February. His greatest hope for this study is that “it proves once and for all without a shadow of a doubt, that convalescent plasma is a valid treatment for viruses like COVID-19.” Richard also sites on the CONCOR-1 steering committee and raises funds to help support the trial’s costs at Sunnybrook.
Sunnybrook Health Sciences
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre is inventing the future of health care for the 1.3 million patients the hospital cares for each year through the dedication of its more than 10,000 staff and volunteers. An internationally recognized leader in research and education and a full affiliation with the University of Toronto distinguishes Sunnybrook as one of Canada’s premier academic health sciences centres. Sunnybrook specializes in caring for high-risk pregnancies, critically ill newborns and adults, offering specialized rehabilitation as well as treating and preventing cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurological and psychiatric disorders, orthopaedic and arthritic conditions and traumatic injuries. The hospital also has a unique and national leading program for the care of Canada’s war veterans.
Jeannie Callum, MD, FRCP, Associate Scientist, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
Call to Action: Regardless of location, if you have recovered from COVID-19, consider finding a local study and donate blood for your antibodies—it can help a patient in need and contribute to the battle against COVID-19.