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U of U conducts experimental COVID-19 antibody treatment

Posted at 5:02 PM, Jan 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-19 19:23:15-05

SALT LAKE CITY — New COVID-19 clinical trials taking place in Utah are investigating if antibody therapy can help people recover from COVID-19.

The University of Utah, in partnership with Johns Hopkins Medicine, is conducting the research study with symptomatic people who tested positive for COVID-19 within six days.

The experimental therapy takes antibodies from someone who recovered from COVID-19 and transfuses the convalescent plasma to the patients who just got sick.

“The antibodies would hopefully be able to bind to the virus and help the body clear it faster before it can cause severe infection,” University of Utah Dr. Emily Spivak said.

READ: Utahns age 70+ begin receiving COVID-19 vaccine

Within the last few weeks, just 20 people signed up to participate.

"If you don’t have enough people, you can’t draw any conclusions about the potential benefit of the therapy. The more people we can enroll, the sooner we will get an answer,” said Dr. Spivak.

Study participants get one plasma transfusion and will be monitored for about 90 days to help doctors find another way to help reduce COVID-19 complications.

“Our hospitals are as full as they ever have been. We are bumping right up against the peak that we’ve seen,” Intermountain Healthcare Dr. Brandon Webb said.

Over the last month, the state expanded the use of monoclonal antibody therapy to 600 people. Those antibodies are made in a lab and given to people at highest risk of complications.

“These are drugs that are intended to help reduce our hospital volumes and help people recover more quickly,” said Dr. Webb.

WATCH: Utah COVID-19 vaccine Q&A

At the University of Utah, Dr. Spivak said they need 20 or more new participants per week to investigate if convalescent plasma really helps COVID-19 patients.

“It’s really important. We have the ability to enroll a lot of people so we encourage people to reach out,” Dr. Spivak said.

Participants of the research study can get paid for helping out. They can sign up at or by emailing