By Rick Sallinger

LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) — Colorado is on the front line of finding a way to treat and prevent COVID-19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has just given emergency approval for a blood purification system developed by a company in Lakewood.

The product from TerumoBCT filters out proteins in the blood that controls a cell’s immune response. The filtered blood is then returned to the patient.

(credit: CBS)

“If you are immune-compromised your system goes into overload and can kill you before it kills the virus,” said CEO of TerumoBCT Antoinette Gawin.

What the machine called Spectra Optia does is filter the protein from the blood that triggers a viral overload and allows the patient to survive.

According to the FDA, the proteins that are removed are typically elevated during infections and can be associated with a “cytokine storm” that occurs in some COVID-19 patients, leading to severe inflammation, rapidly progressive shock, respiratory failure, organ failure and death.

(credit: CBS)

The system could be used for patients 18 and older who are diagnosed with COVID-19 who are admitted to the intensive care unit with confirmed or imminent respiratory failure.

“It’s a matter of us educating physicians and getting it in their hands,” said Gawin.

There are already 6,000 of these devices in use for other illnesses around the world. It has shown promise in Italy and Spain leading the FDA to give emergency approval for use in the U.S. It was designed and built in Lakewood.

“There is hope there are technologies and the more people that put their brain power together the more likely we are to give the physicians the right weapons to tackle this disease,” said Gawin.

Rick Sallinger

Comments (2)
  1. When TurmoBCT was a small start-up company, I was an undergraduate mathematics student at the Colorado School of Mines. They had a problem with their first product which filtered blood — the mathematical models of the product were not working. They called Mines — and one of the Math professors asked me to see if I could help. I applied some R&D and discovered the reason why the data wasn’t working in their mathematical model — it was a minor error in their lab, but a very important problem, which I solved for them. I was told that if I had not solved that problem for them when I did, they might not have been able to survive as a company.

    Today, I co-own a business which does specialized R&D for the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and several large corporations. The TurmoBCT people, today, probably don’t even remember me. But, interestingly, I can see their building out the back door of our company offices, just a block away from us.

  2. Brandon Williams says:

    How it works: In a typical exchange procedure, the Spectra Optia Machine from T.BCT separates and removes selected components of the blood from the patient using continuous flow and centrifugation.

    A patented optical detection technology (known as automated interface management) monitors the composition of the blood throughout the procedure.

    A red blood cell exchange software algorithm is used to calculate the targets for the procedure, and controls the pumps and valves to remove red blood cells. The rest of the blood components (plasma and other cells) are returned to the patient.

    The device protocol, software and automated interface management system also control the replacement of the removed red blood cells with donor red blood cells.

    The device has a depletion function, which can reduce the number of circulating red blood cells by replacing a portion of the removed cells with fluid.

    The procedure typically takes 2–3 hours. WOW!

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