As part of the effort to develop treatments for people with severe cases of COVID-19, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are teaming up with the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance to encourage people who have recovered from the coronavirus to donate their blood plasma. That "convalescent plasma" contains antibodies that can be concentrated into an immune globulin (the "Ig" in the alliance's name) that it is hoped will prove effective against the coronavirus.
"The sooner recovered COVID-19 patients donate convalescent plasma, the sooner the Alliance may be able to start manufacturing a potential therapy and begin clinical trials," the group wrote in a blog post. "These trials will determine if this therapy could treat patients who are at risk for serious complications from COVID-19."
Microsoft is providing technological support for the effort, and also developed what it calls a plasmabot -- an online chatbot that will encourage people to volunteer to donate plasma. The chatbot will walk people through several questions to determine if they're candidates for the program, and if they are, direct them to the closest licensed plasma collection center. The plasmabot launched this weekend.
Peter Lee, the head of research at Microsoft, told CNBC in an interview that the group is aiming to recruit as many donors as possible, as quickly as it can. He noted that there's only a brief window of time after a person recovers from an illness when their plasma could be useful in creating an immune globulin treatment for it. In addition to creating the plasmabot, Microsoft is providing computing resources, infrastructure, and engineers to the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance.