Microsoft wants your blood, but only to help others

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Microsoft is launching a chatbot to help convince survivors of a COVID-19 infection to donate blood help other worse affected patients.

Convalescent plasma therapy delivers antibodies from those who have recovered to those who are critically ill and can significantly improve survival. The blood the plasma is made from is however in short supply as it is difficult to recruit donors.

To aid this effort Microsoft is s launching a chatbot, “Plasmabot,” which will lead people through a series of questions to determine if they’re a candidate to donate plasma. It will also provide information about the procedure and direct them to a nearby site where they can safely make the donation. Microsoft has already made a chatbot for the CDC to help users self-check for COVID-19 symptoms.

Microsoft is working with a consortium of pharmaceutical companies including Octapharma, Takeda, CSL Behring and others.

Convalescent Plasma therapy is not approved by the FDA yet but is currently being allowed as an investigational product.

The window for collecting convalescent plasma is however very short, only 21 to 56 days after the infection, meaning capturing the blood soon after the infection is urgent.

“It’s not an antibody being made and scaled and mass-produced in a lab. The limitation here is that we need enough people to have recovered and enough of these antibodies (quantity) to use in ailing new patients,” said Vasudev Bailey, a biotech investor with Artis Ventures.

Microsoft, however, believes it has the potential to save lives, particularly as other courses of treatment fails, and will be launching Plasmabot sometime this weekend.


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