Irish start-up Hemanua invents treatment for Ebola virus

27 Nov 2014

A treatment for the Ebola virus by a Dublin start-up called Hemanua that relies on gravity rather than electricity is in the advanced stages of testing in collaboration with the Irish Blood Transfusion Service.

Hemanua’s ProBlood CP technology has the capability to enable the harvesting and the transfusion of convalescent plasma (CP) without electricity and driven only by gravity, thereby providing a real advantage in remote and less developed regions, such as West Africa.

“The use of plasmapheresis machines in remote locations can be problematic and a gravity-driven solution could prove of real interest, if full testing completes successfully,” said Monique Gueguen, of Médecins sans Frontières in Paris.

“Preparation of units of red cell concentrates and plasma without a stable electricity supply and without sophisticated equipment could bring modern transfusion therapy in lesser developed blood centres and remote hospitals.”

The ProBlood CP has additional advantages as it produces totally cell-free plasma. 

Test results are almost conclusive

“The use of convalescent plasma from people who have recently recovered from Ebola virus infection has considerable promise as an effective treatment for patients with acute life-threatening infection,” said Dr William Murphy, medical and scientific director with the Irish Blood Transfusion Service.

“Clinical trials of plasma therapy are now planned by several agencies in the epidemic-affected region to assess this approach. 

“Phase 1 test results on the ProBlood CP were very encouraging and the device provides a very real opportunity for clinicians in the field to provide convalescent plasma to the Ebola patients in their care easily and rapidly, and without the need for expensive and complex plasmapheresis equipment,” Murphy said.

Laboratory testing of Hemanua’s technology has been co-ordinated by Áine Fitzpatrick and Harry Croxon, medical scientists with the Irish Blood Transfusion Service.

“Operationally, the ProBlood CP device tested in our Blood Components laboratory is good to go, by meeting the requirements to separate a donation of whole blood simply and efficiently into a unit of therapeutic plasma and donor blood cells within a timeframe of 60-90 minutes.

“Results of preliminary laboratory tests indicate that the plasma should be found to be of similar therapeutic value to the plasma produced by conventional means.”

The work of Hemanua

Dan Maher, Michael Flaherty and Frank O’Regan founded Hemanua Limited early this year. The company is based at NovaUCD, the Centre for New Ventures and Entrepreneurs at University College Dublin, and has a development laboratory at the Pharmaceutical and Molecular Biotechnology Research Centre in Waterford Institute of Technology.

Hemanua is focused on designing and manufacturing a wide range of gravity-driven blood-separation technologies.

Maher explained: “ProBlood CP is based on the company’s patented filter configuration of hollow microfibres capable of extracting plasma while concentrating the red blood cells for retransfusion to the donor.” 

Maher stressed “the ability to retransfuse immediately to the donor their own red cells is a critical advantage, facilitating more frequent donations and keeping the donor healthy.”

Ebola testing image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years