Want To Volunteer for a COVID-19 Trial? This Tool Can Help Connect You
The COVID-19 crisis has shone light on the vital contributions of key workers across society, from healthcare workers to supermarket cashiers. Behind the scenes, however, others are also helping efforts against the virus by participating in the many clinical trials aiming to better understand COVID-19. Those efforts are often hampered by strict guidelines on who can apply for trials, which are necessary to make sure clinical trial data is reliable and rigorous. To try and make the process of applying for trials easier, a free public health initiative called World Without COVID has been launched that will link users to all the trials they are eligible for.
The initiative is a collaboration between study access provider Clara Health and Silicon Valley tech leaders Raj Kapoor of Lyft and Vijay Chattha of VSC. The initiative is open to both COVID-positive and COVID-negative people. Volunteers can apply for trials and blood donation centers that are providing samples for convalescent plasma treatments. To find out more, we spoke to Clara Health CEO and co-founder Evan Ehrenberg.
Ruairi Mackenzie (RM): What was Clara Health’s input towards creating World Without COVID?
Evan Ehrenberg (EE): Clara Health is a founding partner of World Without COVID. We utilized our existing platform to match individuals with COVID-19 diagnostics, drug and vaccine clinical trials.
This initiative also uses Clara’s privacy and cybersecurity standards and tools developed over the last five years, assuring patients that their data is safe with us.
RM: How can people use World Without COVID to find clinical trials and see how easy it is to get involved with trials they have found?
EE: Our matching process is simple and takes just a few minutes. You start by making a profile with Clara by entering some basic information including your name, city, age and contact information. Then, you respond to several multiple choice questions related to the COVID-19 studies that may be a good fit, for example, whether you’ve come into contact with anyone infected, have any symptoms, work in a high-risk profession and others. Once complete, World Without COVID shows you all clinical studies you’re eligible for immediately. Some may be in your area and others may be remote studies which you can complete entirely at home. There are several nationwide remote studies going on, which means most people will be able to participate in at least one.
RM: What are convalescent plasma treatments and why is it so important to find blood donors for them?
EE: Convalescent plasma treatments are one of the most promising treatments currently out there for COVID-19. When a person contracts a virus like COVID-19, their immune system creates antibodies to fight the virus. These antibodies are found in the liquid part of blood, called plasma. Plasma that contains these infection-fighting antibodies is called “convalescent plasma.”
The process involves drawing blood from an individual who has already recovered from COVID-19, then filtering out the blood plasma which has the antibodies that can fight the disease. This blood plasma is then administered to a patient currently fighting the disease through an IV, infusing their blood with the COVID-19 antibodies.
It is important to identify donors because convalescent plasma treatment is one of the most promising treatment options. Donor participation will be vital to help our most vulnerable, especially if we see a higher spike in new infections.
RM: How will technology like Clara Health’s change clinical trials beyond the current pandemic?
EE: Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and the launch of World Without COVID, Clara has already connected more than 10,000 individuals with over 60,000 trials on our platform, where we have helped accelerated clinical trial recruitment by 2x-4x.
Before the outbreak, 86% of clinical trials fell behind schedule due to difficulty recruiting participants. 65% of potential trial participants give up on registering because it’s too complicated. We believe the learnings from an industry-wide, all-hands-on-deck approach to vaccine, drug, and diagnostics development will teach us a significant amount about speeding up development of lifesaving tools in the future. While it’s too early in the pandemic to see exactly how, we’re confident that there will be many improvements and lessons to be learned for clinical trials as well as across the healthcare system.
Evan Ehrenberg was speaking to Ruairi J Mackenzie, Science Writer for Technology Networks