Well-known contester, DXer, and National Contest Journal (NCJ) Editor Scott Wright, K0MD, has been “substantially” stepping back from ham radio while offering his expertise to the US convalescent plasma COVID-19 Expanded Access Program. The study began in early April under the leadership of Dr. Michael Joyner, MD, of the Mayo Clinic; Dr. Peter Marks, MD, PhD and Dr. Nicole Verdun, MD, of the US Food and Drug Administration; Dr. Arturo Casavedall, MD, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University, and Wright, who is with the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Marks is AB3XC.
“The US Convalescent Plasma Expanded Access Program is a collaborative project between the US government and the Mayo Clinic to provide access to convalescent plasma for patients in the US who are hospitalized with COVID 19,” Wright told ARRL. The work has been referenced during White House press briefings and in congressional testimony. The US government-supported study collects and provides blood plasma recovered from COVID-19 patients, which contains antibodies that may help fight the disease. The Mayo Clinic is the lead institution for the program.
“My role was to organize the infrastructure and the research approach, and to help lead the set-up of the data collection and of the website teams, while overseeing the study conduct and regulatory compliance,” Wright explained.
According to a June 18 Washington Post article, “A large study of 20,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients who received transfusions of blood plasma from people who recovered found the treatment was safe and suggests giving it to people early in the disease may be beneficial.”
An initial safety report on 5,000 patients appeared in May in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The safety study on 20,000 subjects referenced in the Washington Post article was published earlier this month in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
Wright said most scientific studies of this magnitude take months to a year with planning and execution to get under way. In this case, the study team went from zero to 60 in a few short weeks.
“We started in less than a week. Most studies recruit 2,500 – 5,000 patients,” Wright said. “We have recruited over 30,000 patients in 10 weeks, exceeding all expectations.”
Hospitals in all 50 states and several US territories are participating, Wright said, and more than 8,000 physician-scientists are working with the team as investigators at their hospitals. “We also helped manage the start-up of collection of convalescent plasma by the large blood organizations, such as the American Red Cross, by strategically connecting donor pools and people willing to donate with the blood collection centers.”
Wright’s study responsibilities, which are on top of his regular day job, have required him to work daily, including weekends, for all of April, most of May, and all of June. “It has been intense,” he said.
Wright said an FDA announcement on the benefit of convalescent plasma was expected soon. “We are working on a third publication now to submit to a major international medical journal for publication on whether the study has shown that use of convalescent plasma reduces mortality,” Wright added. The FDA has been inviting donations of convalescent plasma from individuals who have fully recovered from COVID-19.
Wright will be the keynote speaker at the QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo August 8 – 9 to discuss the study, its results, and, he said, “linking it to skills acquired through ham radio.