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Johns Hopkins-Led Convalescent Plasma Study, Published in NEJM in March 2022, Among 2023 Top 10 Clinical Research Achievement Awards from Clinical Research Forum


A study co-led by David Sullivan, MD, a professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, has been recognized as a 2023 Top Ten Clinical Research Achievement Award by the Clinical Research Forum. The study, “Early Outpatient Treatment for Covid-19 with Convalescent Plasma,” published in the New England Journal of Medicine on March 30, 2022, was co-led by Sullivan and Arturo Casadevall, MD, PhD, at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and Kelly A. Gebo, MD, MPH, Aaron Tobian, MD, and Dan Hanley, MD; at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The NEJM paper details findings of a national multisite randomized control trial that showed that convalescent plasma, containing viral antibodies from the blood of recovered COVID-19 patients, safely reduced hospitalizations in early outpatient treatment. The study found that 17 patients out of 592 (2.9 percent) who received convalescent plasma within nine days of testing positive required hospitalization within 28 days of their transfusion, compared with 37 out of 589 (6.3 percent) who received placebo control plasma. This translated to a relative risk reduction for hospitalization of 54 percent. The researchers made their results public on December 21, 2021, in a preprint published on MedRxiv. Within a week, the Food and Drug Administration authorized outpatient convalescent plasma for use in immunocompromised patients.

“Our study provides a blueprint of hope for early outpatient, high antibody dose convalescent plasma for rapid treatment response in the next pandemic,” says Sullivan. “We are grateful for this recognition of our work validating the efficacy of COVID-19 convalescent plasma in outpatients.”

Collaborators at the Bloomberg School include Andrew Pekosz, PhD; Sabra Klein, PhD, Bryan Lau, PhD, Dave Shade JD., and others. In addition to Gebo, collaborators at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine include Shmuel Shoham, MD; Evan Bloch, MD; Daniel Ford MD, PhD; Lawrence Appel, MD, MPH; Oliver Laeyendecker, PhD., and Karen Lane, Nichol McBee and Amy Gawad and others at the Brain Injury Outcomes Clinical Trials Coordinating Center.

The Top 10 Clinical Research Achievement Awards honor groundbreaking achievements in clinical research from across the nation. The competition seeks to identify major advances in the biomedical field resulting from the nation’s investment in health and welfare. The Top 10 award recipients are selected by a CR Forum panel from among clinical research studies published in peer-reviewed journals in 2022. They are based on the degree of innovation and novelty involved in the advancement of science; contribution to the understanding of human disease and/or physiology; and potential impact upon the diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of disease.

The Clinical Research Forum will formally present the awards at the Top 10 Clinical Research Awards ceremony on April 17, in Washington, D.C. The awardees will also present during sessions at the Translational Science 2023 conference, also in Washington, D.C., that week.

The NEJM convalescent plasma study is highlighted in a new paper, “COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Outpatient Therapy to Prevent Outpatient Hospitalization: A Meta-analysis of Individual Participant Data From Five Randomized Trials,” published online February 22 in Clinical Infectious Diseases. Sullivan is the paper’s the corresponding author. The meta-analysis affirms that convalescent plasma can be used to treat COVID-19 in outpatients, and potentially in future viral pandemics.