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Research and trials

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is supporting national research dedicated to understanding COVID-19 and improving the outcome for patients. 

As yet, there are no proven treatments for COVID-19. We are leading a programme on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care to gather reliable evidence through clinical trials and provide samples to support external research and development.

Using international evidence and UK expertise, the most promising potential treatments have been identified and the UK is running national clinical trials to gather evidence across the whole disease spectrum.

Convalescent plasma trials

Convalescent plasma is the liquid part of blood taken from people who have recovered from COVID-19 and may contain antibodies that their immune systems have produced in fighting the virus. These neutralising antibodies stop the virus getting into cells.

A transfusion of plasma that is rich in these antibodies could improve a person’s recovery time and increase their chances of survival.

A range of potential treatments have been suggested for COVID-19 including convalescent plasma. However, we do not know which of these will be safer and more effective than the current standard care. 

There is some evidence globally that COVID-19 patients may benefit from being given convalescent plasma. However, the safety and effectiveness of convalescent plasma transfusions need to be confirmed by robust clinical trials.

We are currently involved in two treatment trials that have been set up to establish whether a range of potential treatments, including COVID-19 convalescent plasma, benefit patients and at what point in their illness they should be treated.

The NHSBT Clinical Trials Unit is responsible for the management of the convalescent plasma aspects of both trials including hospital set up and staff training. The trials are REMAP-CAP and RECOVERY.


The REMAP-CAP trial is an international trial into the best range of treatments for people with COVID-19. It is an adaptive trial which means different treatments can be added over time and patients can receive different treatments. 

The convalescent plasma treatment is for people who have been in intensive care for less than 48 hours and have tested positive for COVID-19.

Around 1,000 people who take part in the trial will receive plasma as part of their treatment. They will have two transfusions over two days and will monitored for 21 days to see how effective this is.

The trial has recently been opened for recruitment to the convalescent plasma and currently new hospitals are being set up to participate throughout the country.  

This trial will assess whether these special plasma infusions can save lives and reduce the time people need to be on a ventilator.
Dr Lise Estcourt

Director of NHSBT Clinical Trials Unit and senior lecturer University of Oxford

The REMAP-CAP trial in intensive care patients is jointly led by:

  • Dr Lise Estcourt and Prof David Roberts - NHSBT Clinical Trials Unit and University of Oxford
  • Prof David Menon - University of Cambridge
  • Dr Manu Shankar Hari - Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and King's College London

Visit the REMAP-CAP trial website to find out more.


The RECOVERY trial aims to compare different treatments that may be useful for people with COVID-19.

We are working on the effectiveness of convalescent plasma for treating patients with COVID-19 who are in hospital, but not in intensive care.

Around 2,500 people will receive plasma as part of the trial. Like the REMAP-CAP trial, they will receive two doses over two days.

Regular reviews of data from the trial will identify any effective treatments and help make that that treatment available to all patients.

The RECOVERY trial is led by:

  • Prof Peter Horby - University of Oxford
  • Dr Lise Estcourt and Prof David Roberts - NHSBT Clinical Trials Unit and University of Oxford

Visit the RECOVERY trial website for more information.

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