Obinna Okwelume

I’m fascinated by the power of stem cells: Q&A with Dr. Nicolas Pineault


Friday, July 19, 2019

For more than two decades, Dr. Nicolas Pineault has worked in stem cell biology. Since joining Canadian Blood Services in 2012 as a development scientist at the Centre for Innovation, he has conducted research in stem cells from cord blood, bone marrow cells and platelets. Dr. Pineault is an adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa (uOttawa).  

Because July is Cord Blood Awareness Month, we talked to Dr. Pineault about his ongoing research in cord blood, as well as his passions and other new projects. 


Q. Tell us about yourself and the work you’re currently engaged in. 

A. I've been working in the field of stem cell biology since my PhD studies, which I did at the University of British Columbia from 1995-2001. Before joining Canadian Blood Services in 2012, I was a research scientist in the research and development division at Héma-Québec. My other passions in life are hockey, sports, camping and spending time with my family.  

At Canadian Blood Services, I oversee two areas of development and research. First, together with my senior research assistant Roya Pasha, I support the operation of the stem cell manufacturing branch of the organization, including the public cord blood bank located here in Ottawa. We also provide technical and knowledge support. For instance, we developed a thaw protocol for cord blood units distributed by Canadian Blood Services, and optimized various processes used in the stem cell manufacturing business.  

My second area of research is studying the impact that stem cell expansion has on the capacity of cord blood stem cells to support engraftment. This research occurs here in our lab at head office and at the animal facility of uOttawa, and is mainly conducted by the graduate students, honour students and post-doctoral fellows whom I supervise and support. 

Q. What are the biggest challenges that currently exist in cord blood research?  

A. Two areas of work are very popular in the field of cord blood hematopoietic research. The first area is improving the engraftment activity of cord blood to lead to faster recovery of transplant patients. This is done either by tricking stem cells to move to the bone more efficiently after transplant, or by expanding stem cells so that more cells are available for transplantation. Our lab does a lot of research in these areas. Another exciting area of work is gene editing, which could one day provide a long-term cure for patients with common hemoglobinopathies such as sickle cell anemia and beta-thalassemia. This approach tries to genetically correct point-mutations in the DNA of the patients’ stem cells so that their progeny-like red cells can produce normal red cells.  

Q. How do you see the role of your research in improving outcomes for Canadian patients?  

A. Stem cell transplantation is used to cure over 80 diseases, including leukemia and immunodeficiencies, and new exciting possibilities are emerging that may cure other diseases or disorders such as autism and cerebral palsy. So, our work focuses on maximising the quality of stem cell products processed and produced at the Canadian Blood Services to improve outcomes of stem cell transplant for Canadian patients.   

Q. What’s your next project? 

A. We're currently working on a project for the stem cell manufacturing lab in Ottawa about donor-lymphocyte infusion, or DLI products. The objective of this project is to demonstrate that the DLI product retains its quality attributes following changes in production requested by The Ottawa Hospital, namely freezing smaller volumes in new bags. In my wish list, I would love to bring in and optimize the technology that can be used to correct sickle-cell mutation in hematopoietic stem cells. This disease is one of the most common genetic disorders in humans, and current treatment options are not curative. 

Q. Why do you care about your work? 

A. I never thought as an undergrad student in biochemistry at Laval University that I would one day work in the field of stem cell biology. This changed after I did my first immunology course and spent a summer internship at the R&D department of the Red Cross in Quebec City. Since then, I have always been fascinated and impressed by the power of stem cells, and by the incredible research that surrounds these special cells. This is one of the passions that fuels my energy for my line of work. 

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Dr Nicolas Pineault wears a lab coat and holds a blue plastic container in a stem cell lab
Dr. Nicolas Pineault

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.

Cord blood for research – what you need to know


Tuesday, July 09, 2019

 

July is Cord Blood Awareness Month. Stay tuned for more posts about cord blood and how it helps patients, both through treatment and through research. 


To meet a recognized need for a centralized program providing ethnically sourced cord blood for research projects in Canada, Canadian Blood Services, in partnership with The Ottawa Hospital, launched the Cord Blood for Research Program in 2014. Here's what you need to know: 

Why is there a need for cord blood research? 

On any given day, hundreds of Canadians are in need of an unrelated stem cell donor. Cord blood is a rich source of blood forming stem cells and can be used in the treatment of more than 80 diseases and disorders such as leukemia, lymphoma, and aplastic anemia.  

The Cord Blood for Research Program facilitates research that could lead to new discoveries and improvements in patient care. Providing access to cord blood for research is essential to increase our knowledge about current processes for collecting, manufacturing and storing cord blood, and to improve cord blood transplantation outcomes. 

Stem cells from cord blood are also being investigated in the development of new treatments for many diseases, providing hope for more safe and effective medical therapies in the future. Other biomedical research unrelated to stem cells may also use cord blood, and lead to new discoveries that may improve medical care in the future. 

How do we source the cord blood used for research?  

Not all cord blood units are suitable for banking. In fact, the Canadian Blood Services Cord Blood Bank discards some of its cord blood collections, primarily due to insufficient volume, low number of total nucleated cells or low number of stem cells contained in the collected cord blood.  

With mothers’ consent, collected cord blood products that do not meet the criteria for storage in the Cord Blood Bank are distributed by the program to approved research projects, reducing the waste of this precious resource. This happens in partnership with our collection sites in Brampton, Edmonton, Ottawa, and Vancouver. Women who deliver at any of these sites are given the option to consent to donate their baby’s cord blood for biomedical research. 

What are some of the recent research areas?  

The Cord Blood for Research Program is a conduit to promote advances in the fields of transfusion, cellular therapy, and transplantation medicine. In the last fiscal year, the program distributed 155 cord blood units for research. Some recent projects supported with cord blood products from the program include:  

  • An automated manufacturing solution for expansion of blood stem cells 

  • Cell-based therapy for experimental acute kidney injury 

  • Hematopoietic stem cells and transfusion medicine 

  • Regulatory T cells from discarded human thymus for adoptive cell immunotherapy: moving garbage to gold 

  • Stem Cells of the musculoskeletal system: An epigenetics study from childhood to adulthood 

  • Study of immuno-therapeutics anti-tumor efficacy in humanized mice 

Our research network works to share findings from this widely to encourage the application of the knowledge created through the program.  


During Cord Blood Awareness Month, make some time to learn more about why cord blood matters and our Cord Blood for Research Program.  You can also watch this video about donating cord blood.

To donate, visit blood.ca/donatecord

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Nathaly, a mother who donated cord blood, holds her baby and toddler.
Nathaly, a cord blood donor, with Knox and Navi.

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.

University of Alberta’s Timothy Caulfield receives James Kreppner Award


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The 2018 Canadian Blood Services’ James Kreppner Award has been awarded to Timothy Caulfield, professor and research director in the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta.   

Valued at $50,000, the award will support Professor Caulfield’s project to analyze the marketing practices of private cord blood banks, assess their claims, and consider how regulatory tools can help ensure services marketed are done in a scientifically informed and evidence-based manner.    

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Canadian Blood Services' James Kreppner Award awarded to Timothy Caulfield

“The entire Health Law Institute team is thrilled about this award, and we truly appreciate the opportunity to dig into the complex issues associated with donation, blood products and policy development,” says Professor Caulfield. “The research seems both timely and needed. We are lucky to have an award of this nature and hope our work will reflect James Kreppner's fearless analysis of controversial issues.”  

James Kreppner was a former board member of Canadian Blood Services, a lawyer, and a strong advocate for patients’ rights and blood safety. He suffered a severe form of hemophilia-A – a genetic disorder that makes it difficult for blood to clot, and his condition often required transfusions of blood products. In 1985, he became infected with HIV and hepatitis C through tainted blood products.  

Mr. Kreppner became a key figure in establishing the public inquiry into contaminated blood and testified twice before The Krever Commission. He was also a long-time volunteer and member of the Canadian Hemophilia Society before his passing ten years ago on May 14, 2009.   

This annual award named in his honour supports one high-quality research project that explores legal and policy questions relevant to the products and services provided by Canadian Blood Services. The award’s research priorities include the legal and regulatory aspects of (a) donation, collection, storage, and use of blood, blood products, and hematopoietic stem cells; and (b) organ and tissue donation and transplantation.   

Through a series of funding programs and research collaborations, the Canadian Blood Services’ Centre for Innovation conducts and supports research in key priority areas, including projects that span the translational continuum from “bench to bedside.”  

The 2019 competition for the James Kreppner Award will open for applications in Fall 2019 and will support one project with up to $50,000 for a period of one year.   

Find out more about current and past James Kreppner Award program projects:  

Further reading:  


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.

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.

Nominations now open for the 2019 Canadian Blood Services Lifetime Achievement Award


Monday, May 13, 2019

Do you know someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the blood system in Canada?   

Who can be nominated?  

Recipients of the Canadian Blood Services Lifetime Achievement Award are individuals whose landmark contributions are recognized as both extraordinary and world class in the field of transfusion or transplantation medicine, stem cell or cord blood research in Canada and/or abroad. 

To be nominated for the Canadian Blood Services Lifetime Achievement Award, an individual must have contributed significantly to improving the safety and/or quality of blood, blood products, stem cells and/or cord blood or has made noteworthy improvements or advances in transfusion or transplantation medicine practice. Their record of publication should be of significance and their professional reputation should be aligned with the goals and reputation of Canadian Blood Services, reflecting a quality culture driven by excellence. 

The award will be presented on September 23, 2019 in Ottawa at the annual national Honouring Canada’s Lifeline event where we honour our donors, volunteers, peer recruiters and partners from across the country and across our products for their outstanding dedication and achievements. 

 

What's the nomination process? 

Nomination requirements 

  • Provide a short introduction and summary in 150 words or less of the nominee’s contribution to improving the safety and/or quality of blood, blood products or stem cells, or contribution to advances in transfusion medicine practice. 
  • Present a brief biography including academic, research, clinical and administrative positions, awards or recognitions. 
  • Outline how the work of the nominee is set apart from the work of others in the field. 
  • Provide a nominee’s full current curriculum vitae and contact information for the nominee including full name, mailing address, telephone number(s) and email address. 
  • Provide name and contact information for the nominator(s). 

Note: Candidates should be unaware that they have been nominated for this award. 

Submit nominations in writing to the address below:  

By mail:  

Canadian Blood Services Lifetime Achievement Award Nominating Committee 

c/o Dr. Isra Levy, Vice President, Medical Affairs and Innovation 

Canadian Blood Services 

1800 Alta Vista Drive 

Ottawa, Ontario K1G 4J5 

By email:  

isra.levy@blood.ca    

 

Submission deadline: May 30, 2019 

The nominator of the awardee, and the nominee selected, will be notified by the end of June 2019. 

 

Past honourees 

The Canadian Blood Services Lifetime Achievement Award came into existence in 2002. To date, the Canadian Blood Services Board of Directors has selected the following individuals for this prestigious award: 

• Dr. John Bowman, 2002 

• Ms. Marie Cutbush Crookston, 2002 

• Dr. Morris A. Blajchman, 2003 

• Dr. Peter Pinkerton, 2004 

• Dr. John Freedman, 2006 

• Dr. Hans Messner, 2007 

• Mr. Justice Horace Krever, 2008 

• Dr. Gail Rock, 2009 

• Dr. Victor Blanchette, 2010 

• Dr. Allen Eaves and Dr. Connie Eaves, 2011 

• Dr. Celso Bianco, 2012 

• The Canadian Hemophilia Society, 2013 

• Dr. John Dossetor, 2013 

• Dr. Gershon Growe, 2014 

• Dr. Bruce McManus, 2015 

• Dr. David Lillicrap, 2016 

• Nancy Heddle, 2017 

• André Picard, 2018 

  

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2019 Canadian Blood Services Lifetime Achievement Award

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.