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Lots to celebrate as ISBT comes to Toronto

Thursday, June 28, 2018 Dr. Geraldine Walsh
Categories: Blood, Transfusion

Earlier this month, the international community of transfusion medicine and science professionals converged on Toronto, Ontario, for the 35th Congress of the International Society for Blood Transfusion (ISBT). Held every other year at different locations around the globe, the ISBT congress is one of the main knowledge sharing and networking events in the field of transfusion. This year was the first time since 2002 that the ISBT congress was held in Canada. Canadian Blood Services was there in force, to showcase Canadian contributions to the field, exchange ideas, share knowledge, and build connections with our international transfusion colleagues.

See ISBT's event photo gallery

A unique opportunity to celebrate with the world

The timing could not have been better. Hosting ISBT in 2018 Canada coincides with the 20th anniversary of Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec, and welcoming the world to Toronto provided an opportunity to include the global transfusion community in our celebrations. The congress kicked off with a “Local Day” on Saturday, June 2. Organized by the Canadian Society for Transfusion Medicine, Local Day was chaired by Dr. Katerina Pavenski from St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto, and focused on Canadian advances in transfusion medicine over the years. Local Day provided an opportunity to reflect on the past and look to the future, and featured presentations from Canadian Blood Services’ CEO, Dr. Graham Sher, and several other Canadian Blood Services staff. Check back here to learn more about Local Day in a future blog post.

Conversations and cupcakes at ISBT 2018

One of the highlights for us at ISBT 2018 was the opportunity to host a Canadian Blood Services’ booth in the exhibition hall. Showcasing research and education initiatives facilitated by the Centre for Innovation, the exhibit took full advantage of the opportunity to celebrate Canadian Blood Services’ 20th anniversary with the world. Recognizing that no birthday celebration is complete without cake, cupcakes were provided every day, and the booth drew in many visitors with quizzes, draw prizes, events, maple candies, and engaging conversations.


In this inviting space, we truly welcomed the world to Canada and invited our international colleagues to learn more about Canadian Blood Services, in particular our research and education initiatives. Over the course of four days, our discovery and development researchers united to showcase projects and collaborations, inspire young trainees, and to connect with the local and international scientific community. As well, members of our education network demonstrated exciting new resources for transfusion medicine professionals including digital resources developed with support from our BloodTechNet funding program. Check back here for future blog posts to learn more about our research and education activities.

discovery research on display during ISBT 2018

The booth was a key social and networking hub for our immediate and broader transfusion medicine and science community during the congress. With an estimated 600-700 delegates visiting the booth from 40 countries, we were delighted to engage with so many colleagues from near and far and to celebrate with “cupcakes and conversation” at ISBT 2018 in Toronto.


ISBT 2018

Sharing knowledge on the international stage

At large international conferences like the ISBT congress, you learn about the latest innovations and advances in a field. Delegates meet, network, form new collaborations, present their research, and share new discoveries, often for the first time.

ISBT 2018 in Toronto welcomed 2555 delegates and exhibitors from 94 countries!

The congresses’ scientific program covered a wide range of topics in the field of transfusion medicine, from donor recruitment and retention, donor health, blood cell biology, blood component manufacturing, transfusion-transmitted infectious diseases, immunohaematology, patient blood management, adverse transfusion events, cellular therapies, and much more. As well as moderating scientific sessions, Canadian Blood Services’ gave over 30 oral presentations and over 50 poster presentations as part of the congresses’ scientific program.  To learn more about the contributions of our research and education network to ISBT 2018, check back here for a future blog post.

Several themes emerged in the presentations at ISBT 2018. Hot topics included donor health, with a focus on the potential clinical effects of iron deficiency in blood donors. The relationship between donor characteristics and transfusion outcomes continued to be debated at ISBT 2018. New, improved (or renewed) blood products and manufacturing processes were also a theme. For example, for the last 50 years, platelets have predominantly been stored at room temperature, but there is growing evidence that in certain cases cold or frozen platelets may be advantageous clinically and/or logistically and there were several sessions describing cold-stored and frozen platelets at ISBT 2018.

Immunology and cellular therapies were also hot topics, as cellular therapy products improve and impact clinical practice, and basic science continues to search for the next innovations in this field. Quality, safety, immunobiology, appropriate utilization, and clinical practice also featured heavily on the 2018 program.

The plenary sessions focused on arthropod-borne infections (e.g. malaria) and their impact on human health, and platelets, including a captivating presentation that described growing platelets in the laboratory. The congress ended with an inspiring session, “Transfusion Medicine past, present and future”, in which a presentation on the epic history of transfusion medicine was followed by an inspirational call-to-action regarding wellness in the 21st century. Looking to the future, the congress ended with a fascinating talk by Dr. Petra Schwille of the Max Planck Institute describing work to address some truly fundamental questions: What is life? Can we build living cells from basic building blocks?

Were you at ISBT 2018 in Toronto? What “hot topics” did you identify? What were your meeting highlights? We’d love to hear from you! Share in the comments below.

ISBT 2018 provided plenty of inspiration for its delegates. Congratulations to all of our scientific and medical experts who contributed and participated! The Canadian Blood Services’ showcase, alongside the high number of excellent Canadian presentations given and posters displayed as part of the scientific program, hopefully raised the international profile of Canada’s medical and scientific transfusion community. All those involved should be proud. 


Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.


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About the author

Dr. Geraldine Walsh

Dr. Geraldine Walsh is a scientific writer with the Canadian Blood Services’ Centre for Innovation. A PhD scientist with a passion for communication, Geraldine supports Canadian Blood Services’ research and development scientists with writing, editing and preparing manuscripts for publication in peer-reviewed journals. Geraldine was captivated by the fascinating topic of blood during her graduate studies at The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (in Dublin, her hometown). During her PhD, she studied blood platelets, the little cell fragments that maintain the delicate balance between clotting and bleeding in our bodies. Today, her role as scientific writer allows her to combine a love of science with a love of writing and a real dedication to quality science communication.

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It's difficult to pick my favorite highlights from the congress but here are a few:

The donor risk assessment session was fantastic with speakers from Spain, the Netherlands, South Africa, and the United Kingdom sharing their experiences of implementing shorter term behavioral based and gender neutral screening processes.

The young investigators breakfast was a great opportunity to connect with experienced researchers from around the world who were so willing to give their time to novice researchers like me. I was so grateful for this opportunity to network with mentors who shared knowledge and methodological advice so freely.

Also the beat boxing, drumming, and dancing during the opening ceremony provided an energy to the conference like no other!

It was such a great opportunity to learn, connect with colleagues from across Canadian Blood Services, and meet so many individuals from other blood operators who are just as passionate as we are at CBS about blood transfusion research.

It was truly inspiring to meet so many colleagues from Canada and around the world who are passionate about transfusion medicine and science. And at a conference as big as IBST with many sessions running in parallel it is impossible to attend everything, so I love hearing which sessions stood out for other attendees. Thank you for sharing your highlights, Terrie!