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Chancellor Michael F. Collins is pictured with representatives from Grifols and Liberia at a celebration of an Ebola prevention initiative in which UMMS was a partner.
January 5, 2019

Medical School celebrates Grifols’ launch of Ebola biotherapeutic

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  • Medical School
Global manufacturer begins production of plasma-based therapeutic to prevent and treat Ebola in Liberia.

UMass Medical School Chancellor Michael F. Collins joined Grifols executives and a delegation from the Liberian Ministry of Health and the Liberian Embassy to celebrate the company’s launch of production of a plasma-derived Ebola biotherapeutic. Chancellor Collins delivered remarks at the event, held on Dec. 19, at the Clayton, N.C., processing plant of Grifols, a leading global producer of plasma-derived biotherapeutics, where the first batch of plasma from Ebola survivors is being purified. Also speaking at the event were Grifols co-CEOs Victor Grifols Deu and Raimon Grifols Roura, son and brother respectively of CEO Victor Grifols, who received an honorary degree from UMMS in 2017.

“For more than a decade, our institution has worked closely with partners in Liberia, particularly the University of Liberia, to rebuild the country’s medical infrastructure and establish health care training programs at the University,” said Collins. “The Ebola outbreak in 2014 tested the will and resolve of the Liberian people, the entire region and, in fact, the world community. Our institution was in a position to leverage years of close collaborative efforts with the Liberian government to contribute to the humanitarian response.”

With deep ties in Liberia dating back long before the Ebola epidemic, UMMS leadership and faculty were among many academic, scientific and clinical collaborators who stepped in to help address the health crisis. UMMS led the creation of the Academic Consortium Combating Ebola in Liberia (ACCEL) in partnership with the Liberia College of Physicians and Surgeons and with funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.

ACCEL worked with Grifols and the Liberian Ministry of Health to develop a nonprofit initiative dedicated to producing an anti-Ebola immunoglobulin using plasma from Ebola survivors. Plasma is a component of blood that can be used in life-saving treatments for a variety of conditions and diseases. Enough has now been collected from healthy Ebola survivors for Grifols to begin large-scale.

Grifols worked with its foundations and partners, including UMass Medical School, to design, build and deliver two mobile units with laboratory testing capabilities as well as blood and plasma donation capabilities to Monrovia, Liberia, in 2015. The units were donated at no cost to the Liberian government and remain in use today, allowing ongoing large-scale plasma collection.

“The seed of generosity planted in 2014, amid a global health crisis, has blossomed into something truly special,” said Collins. “Today, we celebrate the science, the survivors and the sense of service to others that has allowed their donated plasma to be processed into medicines to keep families, communities and entire populations safe from future Ebola outbreaks.”

The collaboration offers further long-term potential for related research of value to the region, such as plasma products for Lassa fever. Additional support has been provided by the U.S. CDC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization, the International Rescue Committee and the American Refugee Committee.

“This good work continues to this day thanks to Grifols, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Liberian Ministry of Health and so many other supporters,” Collins said. “Ours is a story about the power of partnership and the value of teamwork. UMass Medical School feels proud to be among such stalwart partners.”

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