Making a Difference

Partnering in Transplant Against COVID-19

After years on the frontlines of patient care, Troy Somerville, Head, US Transplant Medical Affairs, shares how the Sanofi Transplant team supported the community throughout the pandemic and beyond

The Sanofi Transplant team takes its ‘Partners in Transplantation’ mantra seriously. So when COVID-19 put the world at a standstill one year ago, we did what we’ve been doing for more than 20 years – partner with the transplant community to identify problems and see what we could do to help.

As a former transplant clinical pharmacist, I could only imagine the challenges that COVID-19 has brought to those seeking organ transplants and my colleagues in the medical field. To help identify those concerns, Sanofi quickly evolved our physician-to-physician Transplantation Education Initiative Series to include the latest information on COVID-19. 

We uncovered a lot during these sessions.

Since many people waiting to receive a transplant tend to have other medical conditions, such as diabetes or an autoimmune disease, there were concerns about this population contracting COVID-19 since it has led to some of the most serious complications. As a result, the number of transplants performed are down following many institutions suspending transplants momentarily and implementing changes to protect this vulnerable patient population. 

"Sanofi is committed to continuing to invest in the transplant community" - Troy SomervilleThe numbers are no different for living donors – who are people that altruistically decide to donate an organ to someone in need. Given the COVID-19 challenges in most hospitals and the hesitancy by some transplant teams to bring otherwise healthy people to the hospital for surgery – potentially increasing their risk of contracting COVID-19 – there has also been a drop in the number of living donors. 

But what we learned most of all is that these sessions were more than just an opportunity for us to hear from the community; it was a chance for transplant professionals to hear how others were facing similar challenges and share some of the steps they were taking to help their patients.

We also took an opportunity to pivot our patient-to-patient program, Kidney Transplant Connectors, which puts potential donors and recipients in touch with former donors and recipients to hear about their personal experiences. While these sessions were previously held in-person at transplant centers across the U.S., we moved to a virtual model to keep these conversations going when people found themselves staying home.

Our work here at Sanofi isn’t done. As we saw at the recent American Transplant Congress, COVID-19 continues to be a focus area, specifically how we can help protect the transplant community through vaccination efforts. 

A recent Journal of the American Medical Association publication found 46% of transplant recipients produced no antibodies after either dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine.1 As a world leader in vaccines, this alarming finding is another reason Sanofi is committed to developing and manufacturing vaccines with the goal of reaching herd immunity to help protect vulnerable populations.

While there is light at the end of the tunnel as restrictions begin to loosen, the battle is far from over for transplant recipients. Sanofi is committed to and will continue to support the transplant community. Whether it be ongoing dialogues or identifying new solutions to help transplant recipients, we will stand as partners through this pandemic and beyond.

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1. Boyarsky BJ, Werbel WA, Avery RK, et al. Antibody Response to 2-Dose SARS-CoV-2 mRNA Vaccine Series in Solid Organ Transplant Recipients. JAMA. 2021;325(21):2204–2206. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.7489.