Blood is a crucial supportive therapy within healthcare. Approximately 18 million blood components including red cells, platelets, plasma, cryoprecipitate, and a small amount of whole blood are collected each year in the United States, meaning it is of critical importance that blood remains pathogen-free. Today’s guest is Dr. Larry Corash, the co-founder and chief scientific officer of Cerus (CERS), a patient-centric medical technology firm focused on massively improving the safety of the world’s blood supply. Cerus is helping to shift medical paradigms around the prevention of transfusion-transmitted diseases from reactive to proactive. Before 1971, there was only one test that was done on blood before transfusion, which was a test for syphilis. Since then, tests for other viruses have been invented but the method remains cumbersome and accident-prone. Dr. Corash’s experience with patients who had been infected with HIV through blood transfusions was ultimately what brought him to do the research that lead to the development of the technology Cerus uses. Dr. Corash appears on the show today to speak more about Cerus’s mission, the science behind INTERCEPT technology, legalities around FDA approval in the US, and some of the great work they have already done to revolutionize blood transfusion safety practices globally.
Key Points From This Episode:
- The MO at Cerus: to improve the safety of blood transfusion by preventing infections.
- Blood donation statistics in the US: 18 million components are collected annually.
- The evolution of testing capacity since 1971 when only syphilis could be detected.
- Two challenges to detecting new viruses: recognizing and isolating them.
- Connections between challenges to detecting viruses and lags in developing tests for them.
- How Cerus moves to a proactive method for pathogen prevention through DNA inactivation.
- What arboviruses are and how they are becoming more prevalent due to global warming.
- The role of travel in the spread of pathogens such as Zika.
- How French Polynesians adopted Cerus technology to fight the Dengue virus.
- Benefits of the broad sweep effect of INTERCEPT tech over the singular testing model.
- A history of platelet transfusion therapy and the importance of platelets for curbing bleeding.
- How sepsis can develop in platelets that have to be stored at room temperature.
- Instances of platelet transfusion in the 80s that caused transfusion transmitted diseases.
- What Intercept technology does to inactivate bacteria, viruses, parasites, and T Cells.
- How INTERCEPT’s targeting of nucleic acid prevents the need for gamma irradiation.
- The surprisingly recent institutionalization of new blood-related safety practices by the FDA.
- How FDA draft vs final guidance documents are affecting the adoption of INTERCEPT.
- Differences between Large Volume Delayed Sampling (LVDS) and INTERCEPT processes.
- LVDS methods tend to be complicated, lengthy, and costly.
- Pathogen inactivated products are fresher than LVDS ones and require no follow-ups.
- Motivations for hospitals using pre-FDA approved methods to switch to INTERCEPT.
- Economic improvements for blood centers and hospitals after adopting INTERCEPT.
- Licensure and the applicability of INTERCEPT technology to plasma and cryoprecipitate.
- Ways that INTERCEPT technology extends the usability of cryoprecipitate in a thawed state.
- The efficacy of INTERCEPT technology on red blood cells through S-303 molecules.
- Funding from BARDA and the Swiss Red Cross that is helping Cerus deploy technologies.
- How Dr. Corash started the research that led to Cerus after encountering HIV patients.
- Freeze-dried products that Cerus has developed with military first aid applications.
“Testing is always a reactive strategy and the mission of Cerus was to develop a better strategy for dealing with methods to prevent transfusion transmitted infections.” — Dr. Larry Corash
“In contrast to testing, where testing only takes a small sample from a donor and tests it, with pathogen reduction technologies such as INTERCEPT, you’re treating the whole product. So you can think of it in the same way that we pasteurize milk. We don’t test the milk, we pasteurize it.” – Dr. Larry Corash
“The basic platform of nucleic acid-targeted compounds to inactivate infectious pathogens in blood is applicable to platelets, plasma, cryoprecipitate, red blood cells, and whole blood. So it provides a way to protect all of the important blood component transfused products.” — Dr. Larry Corash
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