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Stem Cells

Funding awarded to researchers to optimize blood product use


Thursday, April 30, 2020 Everad Tilokee

Through the Blood Efficiency Accelerator Program, Canadian Blood Services supports

projects that improve the use of blood products. These improvements can be realized at any point from vein to vein, that is from the point of blood collection, through manufacturing, distribution, and storage, to clinical use.

Congratulations to the recent Blood Efficiency Accelerator Program recipients:

  • Jason Acker (University of Alberta & Canadian Blood Services) 
  • Calvino Cheng (Dalhousie University)
  • Andrew Shih (University of British Columbia) 

These projects will increase our understanding of how to optimize the use of blood products to better serve Canadians.

For example, when stored frozen red blood cells must remain below -65°C. However, occasionally during storage, these red blood cells may experience unintentional warming. Jason Acker’s project will evaluate the impact of unintentional warming on the quality of red blood cells. The results may lead to changes in the storage and management of frozen red blood cells.

Despite being within their shelf life, blood products can be  discarded prior to being transfused into a patient. Calvino Cheng’s team will use artificial intelligence technology to investigate why blood products are discarded. Looking at data from several Nova Scotia hospitals, his work aims to identify discard trends to allow hospital staff to respond quickly to reduce blood product wastage.

Andrew Shih’s project will focus on patients undergoing stem cell transplantation often used to treat cancers of the blood and bone marrow. Sometimes patients receive stem cells from donors who are not of the same blood type. With time, the recipient’s blood type will switch to their donor’s blood type. This presents a complex situation if the recipient needs a blood transfusion, and so these patients receive universal blood. Andrew Shih’s team will use a series of blood and genetic testing to determine when recipients undergo blood type switching to reduce the unnecessary use of universal blood.

To learn more about these funded research projects, visit our funded research projects page.

Call for applications!

Do you have an idea that might improve the efficient and appropriate use of blood products?

The BEAP Summer 2020 competition is currently open with an application deadline of July 17, 2020.

The Postdoctoral Fellowship Program 2020 competition is also open and accepting applications until July 17, 2020.

To learn more about these Programs, visit our research funding opportunities page.

To stay informed about Canadian Blood Services’ Centre for Innovation funding opportunities, please sign up for our Research & Education newsletter.


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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Friday, November 29, 2019
Dr. Geraldine Walsh

The Centre for Innovation supports research, innovation and education in key areas in blood, plasma, stem cells, and organs and tissues. This support is in part through the many competitive funding programs centre administers. These are open to Canadian researchers interested in pursuing projects focused on Canadian Blood Services priorities. Read on to learn about the recent recipients of funding through our Postdoctoral Fellowship Program and our Blood Efficiency Accelerator Award Program.


Tuesday, October 30, 2018
Everad Tilokee

In 2017, the Centre for Innovation established a new research funding program – the Blood Efficiency Accelerator Award Program or “BEAP”. The BEAP funds research to improve the efficient and appropriate use of blood and blood products. Quick Facts: BEAP was established in 2017 to support research...


Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Everad Tilokee

Centre for Innovation funding programs like the Postdoctoral Fellowship Program enable experts in the fields of transfusion and transplantation medicine to deepen their understanding of the blood system while making vital steps towards a safer, more effective and responsive system for Canada. This program provides postdoctoral fellows with salary support to conduct their research and a supplementary research allowance which can be used towards purchasing materials, supplies, and other services needed to ensure a successful project.

Improving a quality test for cord blood samples


Thursday, February 27, 2020 Dr. Geraldine Walsh

Cord blood — the blood left in the umbilical cord after a baby is born — is a rich and important source of stem cells for transplantation. Stem cell transplants are used to treat more than 80 diseases and disorders, including blood cell cancers such as leukemia. The national Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank collects, processes and freezes cord blood units. These units are available to any patient worldwide who needs a stem cell transplant and finds a match in the bank. 

Recent research conducted by the Centre for Innovation and Canadian Blood Services Cord Blood Bank and stem cell manufacturing sought to improve pre-transplant quality tests of thawed cord blood samples. These tests are important as they are used to make decisions about whether the cord blood unit will be suitable for transplantation.

The study, “Overcoming the deceptively low viability of CD45+ cells in thawed cord blood unit segments” was published in November 2019 in Vox Sanguinis.  

The study findings suggest ways to improve the quality test procedure so that the results produced better reflect the quality of the cord blood unit to be transplanted. This could increase the number of cord blood units that can be released for transplantation by reducing the number of cord blood units that fail quality tests.

To learn more about the study, read our latest Research Unit.


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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Friday, July 19, 2019
Obinna Okwelume

Dr. Nicolas Pineault speaks about his passion for stem cell research, and the exciting new projects he’s currently engaged in.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Jenny Ryan

Dr. Pineault and his team are working on a cellular therapy to improve engraftment (the process through which new blood-forming cells start to develop in the patient) following cord blood stem cell transplantation.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Jenny Ryan

July marks Cord Blood Awareness Month in certain places around the world. In homage to this important campaign we collected a few related stories from the RED archives and share a bit more information about why Cord Blood matters. Cord blood stem cells can be used in the treatment of more than 80...

Nominations now open for the 2020 Canadian Blood Services Lifetime Achievement Award


Tuesday, February 18, 2020 Dr. Geraldine Walsh

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.

Who can be nominated?

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.

Be inspired by past recipients

Typically, there is only one recipient of the Canadian Blood Services Lifetime Achievement Award each year, but in 2019 two outstanding innovators were recognized. Dr. Donna Wall was honoured for her medical career spanning almost 40 years during which she made significant contributions to the evolution of blood and marrow transplantation across North America. Transplant physician and scientist Dr. Harold Atkins was honoured for his career dedicated to discovering innovative methods for stem cell transplantation.

The 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented on September 21, 2020 in Ottawa at the annual national Honouring Canada’s Lifeline event where Canadian Blood Services honours donors, volunteers, peer recruiters and partners for their outstanding dedication and achievements.

To learn about past recipients of the Canadian Blood Services Lifetime Achievement Award, and other awardees at the Honouring Canada's Lifeline annual ceremony, click here.

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)

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

Process for nominations

To nominate an individual for the Canadian Blood Services Lifetime Achievement Award, please submit in writing to:

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

isra.levy@blood.ca

Nominations must be received by May 19, 2020.

More information

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, Leah Hollins 2017
  • André Picard, 2018
  • Dr. Harold Atkins and Dr. Donna Wall, 2019

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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Friday, September 27, 2019
Catherine Lewis

With a medical career spanning almost 40 years, Dr. Donna Wall has made significant contributions to the evolution of blood and marrow transplantation across North America. After completing paediatric and paediatric hematology/oncology training in the U.S., Dr. Wall went on to establish blood and...


Thursday, September 26, 2019
Catherine Lewis

With a focus on improving the lives of patients living with autoimmune diseases, transplant physician and scientist Dr. Harold Atkins has dedicated his career to discovering innovative methods for stem cell transplantation. In the late 1990s, Dr. Atkins and neurologist Dr. Mark Freedman proposed a...


Monday, May 13, 2019
Obinna Okwelume

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.

Funding research to improve blood products and the blood system – call for applications!


Thursday, January 30, 2020 Everad Tilokee

The Centre for Innovation’s funding programs support research to help ensure a safe and effective supply of blood and blood products for Canadians. But, research and medicine are not static. To be effective, these programs must be dynamic and respond to new developments and changing needs. The Intramural Research Grant Program (IRGP) is one of the Centre for Innovation’s most responsive and impactful research funding programs.

Every year, the Centre for Innovation welcomes applications to the IRGP competition to ensure that the program is always responding to emerging challenges facing the blood system. This year, the IRGP will support research that will advance knowledge in the following areas:

  • Promoting appropriate blood product utilization
  • Ensuring an adequate blood product supply
  • Minimizing the adverse effects of blood product transfusion
  • Optimizing blood product quality
  • Replacing or improving blood products through new therapies or technologies

Quick Facts:

  • Registration forms are due Feb. 7, 2020, and full applications are due April 10, 2020.
  • All project teams must include ≥ 2 investigators and at least one of the investigators must be a Canadian Blood Services scientist, medical officer/director/consultant, or adjunct scientist.
  • All investigators applying to the IRGP must be affiliated with a Canadian academic program as a faculty member.
  • IRGP projects may be supported up to a maximum of $400,000 over two years.

The IRGP is designed to build strong research teams and to support and maintain a network of researchers dedicated to addressing the needs of Canadian Blood Services. Over the past year alone, nine projects have been funded through this program. These projects address various issues including appropriate utilization of blood products and blood product safety.

For example, a team led by Dr. William Sheffield, associate director, research, at the Centre for Innovation is using mouse models to understand whether plasma, products purified from plasma, or products mimicking proteins found in plasma are best to help critically injured patients. This study will improve understanding of how to best use blood and blood products to benefit Canadian patients.

Dr. Sandra Ramirez-Arcos, senior development scientist at the Centre for Innovation, is investigating how bacteria grow in platelet units to try to better understand why screening tests do not always detect units that are contaminated with bacteria. The findings could help improve transfusion safety, as contaminated units that are not detected by the screening tests and are transfused can cause serious reactions in the patient.

Check out our Funded Research Projects page to learn about the other projects funded under this Program (select “Intramural Research Grant Program” under Programs).

Interested in applying for funding?

If you have a project idea, a faculty appointment at a Canadian academic institution, and a project team member affiliated with Canadian Blood Services, you are eligible to apply for funding through the IRGP. Project teams can be any size; however, all project teams must include two investigators and at least one of the investigators must be affiliated with a Canadian Blood Services as a Canadian Blood Services Scientist, Medical 

Officer/Director/Consultant, or Adjunct Scientist (a list can be found here). All investigators must be affiliated with a Canadian academic institution as a faculty member.

Our 2020 competition is currently open and registration forms must be submitted by February 7, 2020. If you are interested in applying, click here for more information. If you have any questions or need help identifying a team member from Canadian Blood Services, contact the Centre for Innovation by email at centreforinnovation@blood.ca.

Subscribe to the Research & Education Round Up to stay up to date on research publications and funding opportunities.


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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Tuesday, October 30, 2018
Everad Tilokee

In 2017, the Centre for Innovation established a new research funding program – the Blood Efficiency Accelerator Award Program or “BEAP”. The BEAP funds research to improve the efficient and appropriate use of blood and blood products. Quick Facts: BEAP was established in 2017 to support research...


Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Everad Tilokee

Centre for Innovation funding programs like the Postdoctoral Fellowship Program enable experts in the fields of transfusion and transplantation medicine to deepen their understanding of the blood system while making vital steps towards a safer, more effective and responsive system for Canada. This program provides postdoctoral fellows with salary support to conduct their research and a supplementary research allowance which can be used towards purchasing materials, supplies, and other services needed to ensure a successful project.


Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Ross FitzGerald

Researchers are invited to apply for funding under the MSM Research Grant Program

Top 5 blog posts of 2019


Tuesday, January 07, 2020 Catherine Lewis

Welcome to 2020! Take a look back with us by checking out the five most visited R.E.D. blog posts in 2019. 

 

Group of blood donors

1. The ABCs of ABO blood types

In the early days of transfusion medicine, doctors gave patients all sorts of different fluids, including blood or milk from animals. Success varied, and the results were often disastrous—even when they used human blood. It wasn’t until the start of the 20th century that physicians learned the ABCs of the ABO blood types and finally understood how to give a successful transfusion. Read more >>

 

 

 

 

iron

2. Ferritin findings: investigating iron and impacts on donors

The health and well-being of our donors is a top priority at Canadian Blood Services. Health screening, education and donor testing help to ensure donors are healthy enough to give and that their gift doesn’t cause harm to themselves or to patients. If a problem is detected, we let donors know and advise to them to take action. Read more >>

 

3. Dr. Chantale Pambrun explains the importance of iron wellness

Iron is an essential element for producing hemoglobin (the molecule that helps transport oxygen around your body). Back in 2017, we made changes to donor eligibility based on new information our researchers learned about mitigating iron deficiency in blood donors.

In this post, Centre for Innovation director Dr. Chantale Pambrun, who was at the time medical consultant, donor and clinical services with Canadian Blood Services, explains why we made changes, and provides some more information about why donor iron wellness is important. Read more >>

 

Nathaly, a mother who donated cord blood, holds her baby and toddler.

4. Cord blood matters - take time to learn more

Cord blood stem cells can be used in the treatment of more than 80 different diseases and disorders. By donating their baby’s cord blood, parents have the power to help patients living with diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma, aplastic anemia, and sickle cell disease. Researchers continue to explore the possibilities of using cord blood in many other treatments.

At any given time, there are hundreds of Canadian patients searching for an unrelated stem cell donor. Cord blood might just be the chance they need. Read more >>

 

5. Why do scientists use mice in medical research? 

Mice fill a special and important role in medical research. Like humans, mice are mammals, and their bodies undergo many similar processes, such as ageing, and have similar immune responses to infection and disease. Their hormone (endocrine) systems are a lot like ours, too. They’re also one of the first species — along with humans — to have had their complete genome sequenced. From this, we’ve learned they share approximately 80 per cent of their genes with us. Read more >>


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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Tuesday, January 01, 2019
Jenny Ryan

As the year comes to a close and 2019 is set to begin, we take a moment to reflect on the 2018 articles that were among the most popular.


Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Jenny Ryan

It's hard to believe that 2017 is almost over. As we prepare for 2018, we take a look back on our most-read research, education and discovery stories from the past year. #5 Encouraging meaningful careers in STEM – Part 1 Image To encourage more young people to consider careers in science, technology...


Thursday, October 31, 2019
Catherine Lewis

Drinking the blood of the young, and thereby somehow capturing their youth, is a common literary trope. The ghoulish notion speaks to our cultural fascination with youth, but also to our dread of aging. There’s no evidence-based therapy using the blood of young people to counteract or prevent the...

AABB 2019 – A knowledge infusion for our trainees!


Thursday, November 14, 2019 Canadian Blood Services trainees
Narges & Olga at AABB 2019 in San Antonio
Narges & Olga at AABB 2019 in San Antonio

The AABB Annual Meeting is a must-attend event for those in the fields of transfusion medicine and cellular therapies. AABB 2019 took place last month in San Antonio, Texas. Canadian Blood Services’ trainees, Dr. Narges Hadjesfandiari (University of British Columbia) and Dr. Olga Mykhailova (University of Alberta), were there and report back on their meeting highlights.

Narges:

Narges receiving her award for “2019 Outstanding Abstract Award for Trainees” at AABB 2019
Narges (centre) receiving her award for “2019 Outstanding Abstract Award for Trainees” at AABB 2019

I really enjoyed the combination of specialized sessions that directly related to my research plus multiple more general sessions. The oral session: “Red Blood Cell Storage: The Oxygen Paradox” and the posters in this area inspired me to do more and work faster when I am back in the laboratory! “Blood Bank Mythbusters” and “Beyond Conventional: Controversial Uses of Blood Components,” on the other hand, were two eye-opener sessions and a knowledge infusion to my blood banking brain.

AABB 2019 also gave me the opportunity to finally meet face-to-face with Canadian Blood Services’ scientists, trainees and administrative staff whose everyday work has inspired and helped me, but who I knew only by name before.

I had the opportunity to present a poster entitled “Cryoprecipitate for Adults – How Important Is It to Match for Blood Type” and give an oral presentation on “Time to Production is Among the Factors Affecting Red Blood Cell Storage Hemolysis" at AABB 2019.

Congratulations to Narges, from Dr. Dana Devine's lab, who won "2019 Outstanding Abstract Award for Trainees" for her oral presentation at AABB 2019. This presentation was also highlighted on the AABB blog.

 

 

Olga:

Olga presenting her poster at AABB 2019
Olga presenting her poster at AABB 2019

As a postdoctoral fellow at Dr. Jason Acker’s laboratory, one of our main areas of research is understanding the aging of different subpopulations of stored red blood cells depending on donor sex, age and other factors. Therefore, it was very interesting to me that lots of speakers at AABB 2019 addressed the fact that progression and severity of the storage lesion – the gradual loss of quality of red blood cells during storage before transfusion – varies depending on donor characteristics.

Dr. Angelo D’Alessandro (University of Colorado) spoke about how donor biology impacts oxidative stress and other metabolic changes during red blood cell storage. Together with Dr. Richard Francis (Columbia University), he hypothesized that storing red blood cells under low-oxygen conditions may be a reasonable approach to improve their storage quality.

It was a great pleasure for me to attend a keynote speech of Yancey Strickler, the co-founder of Kickstarter, who shared with the audience the idea of “Bento Box for Your Values”. Strickler believes that everyone can easily define themselves and their values by filling the four boxes of bento: “now me” (short-term, personal goals), “now us” (short-term, collective goals), “future me" (long-term, personal goals) and “future us” (long-term collective goals). This idea is an integral part of sustaining powerful public-benefit corporations, such as Kickstarter.

I also had the opportunity to present a poster about my work: “RBC Subpopulations in Stored Concentrates Have Different Quality Characteristics”.

Want to learn more about the exciting advances and discoveries shared at AABB 2019? Check out the AABB blog. Many of their October posts focus on the Annual Meeting.


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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Thursday, November 07, 2019
Catherine Lewis

Last month, Dr. Donald Branch, a scientist at Canadian Blood Services’ Centre for Innovation and professor at the University of Toronto, received a prestigious international award honouring his more than 40 years of major contributions to transfusion medicine and hematology.


Friday, September 06, 2019
Canadian Blood Services trainees

On the May 30, an eager group of Canadian Blood Services trainees gathered In Calgary, Alta. for the Centre for Innovation’s Research Trainee Workshop. The attendees spent the day at the Eau Claire donor centre to learn about donor selection criteria, the blood donor experience, and the art of science blogging.


Tuesday, June 11, 2019
Bronwyn Lyons

The Centre for Blood Research’s symposium was held in Vancouver, British Columbia in April. Featuring talks from world-class researchers, trainees and patients, the Norman Bethune Symposium provided attendees with the perfect blend of information and inspiration.

Dr. Donald Branch honoured by AABB for his career achievements


Thursday, November 07, 2019 Catherine Lewis

Dr. Donald Branch’s career shows a scientist driven by intellectual curiosity. From Gila monster venom to crocodile blood, from HIV to Ebola to huge discoveries improving outcomes for transfusion and transplantation patients, he pursues scientific questions and embraces all the twists and turns that path of inquiry may take.  

“There’s always something new that keeps the interest going,” he says. “It’s pretty hard to figure out nature — it has a way of throwing a wrench in things just when you think you have an answer. Then you have to keep looking. There’s always a new angle, a new hypothesis, that keeps you from getting bored.” 

Last month, Dr. Branch, a scientist at Canadian Blood Services’ Centre for Innovation and professor at the University of Toronto, received a prestigious international award honouring his more than 40 years of major contributions to transfusion medicine and hematology.  

At this year’s annual meeting of AABB, an international organization representing people and institutions involved in transfusion medicine and cellular therapies, Dr. Branch received the Tibor Greenwalt Memorial Award. It’s his third award from AABB, but he says he isn’t in it for the accolades.  

“As a scientist, we don’t do our work thinking we’re going to get any awards. I do my science because I like it. It’s fun, interesting and exciting at times; and you get to think of new questions about what is important in biological sciences and how things work,” he says.  

“It’s nice to get an award, because it says what you’ve been doing for fun these last 40 years has paid off — people have found value in it. You have to have a thick skin in research. You have to be able to accept rejection and criticism, especially when you’re writing grants and papers. The work itself is interesting and exciting, but trying to advance the field can be difficult. When you actually get an award for something you’ve done, it’s meaningful because it represents years of hard work and overcoming some of the criticisms and roadblocks along the way.”  

Dr. Branch’s proudest accomplishment is being the first scientist to describe mixed hematopoietic chimerism, a state where after a bone marrow transplant both the recipient and donor’s cells exist together harmoniously in the blood. Published in 1982, Dr. Branch’s finding has been confirmed and generated more than 1200 related publications. Where there is mixed hematopoietic chimerism, there is little if any graft-versus-host disease, and this fact has led other scientists to explore this phenomenon for recipients of other types of transplants, such as hearts, livers, lungs, and kidneys. Introducing mixed hematopoietic chimerism into transplant recipients may lead to them not needing anti-rejection medication.  

“The general thinking at the time was that following bone marrow transplantation where myeloablation (a severe reduction in the ability of a patient’s bone marrow to produce new blood cells) was the protocol, if you begin to see the blood cells increasing in population, you’ve obtained engraftment of the donor stem cells. I found this wasn’t necessarily true. You could have the patient’s own stem cells come back and repopulate the patient, sometimes with no donor cells detectable for long periods of time; so, more genetic testing needed to be done to determine which cells, the patient’s or the donor’s, or both were coming back. This finding was something very new; this was the first time it had been reported,” he says.  

What’s next for Dr. Branch? He has many projects on the go, including one investigating whether HIV/AIDS could be a neuropeptide disease, and another looking at a little-understood phenomenon in some sickle cell disease patients. Many sickle cell patients require regular blood transfusions. After a red blood cell transfusion, hemoglobin levels typically increase and taper off gradually over time. Hyperhemolysis is a life-threatening reaction to blood transfusions in sickle cell patients where instead of staying increased, hemoglobin increases briefly, then crashes lower than even the initial level. This can happen within a matter of hours, and with further transfusions it can happen repeatedly.  

“We don’t know why this happens to some patients, so I’m working to figure out this mechanism,” says Dr. Branch. “If we know why and how this happens, maybe we can figure out how to prevent it.”   

Read the AABB blog to learn more about Dr. Branch’s many contributions to transfusion medicine and hematology.  

Image
Dr. Donald Branch holds his award at the AABB annual meeting in San Antonio
Dr. Donald Branch holds the Tibor Greenwalt Memorial Award at the AABB annual meeting in San Antonio. (Photo: Chantale Pambrun)

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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Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Dr. Kendra Hodgkinson

For this instalment of “Meet the researcher”, we met with Dr. Donald Branch, a scientist at Canadian Blood Services who studies infectious diseases and immunology. How long have you been with Canadian Blood Services? I started with the Canadian Red Cross at the Edmonton Blood Centre in December 1985...


Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Lisa Willemse

Wonder drug it may be, but IVIg is a slippery fish. Even after 60 years, little is known about precisely how it works. An encounter with a scientist The first thing you notice when you walk into Dr. Don Branch’s office at 67 College Street in Toronto is how small it seems. And colourful, owing to an...


Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Jenny Ryan

On June 5, Canadian Blood Services was honoured to accept the Canadian Operational Research Society's Omandt Solandt Award at a reception in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Michelle Rogerson, Director, Supply Chain (Atlantic), Canadian Blood Services, accepted the award on behalf of the organization. Image...

Memories of CST 2019


Thursday, October 24, 2019 Jenny Ryan

The 2019 Canadian Transplant Summit took place Oct. 15-19 in iconic Banff, Alta. Presented by the Canadian Society of Transplantation (CST), Canadian Blood Services and the Canadian Donation and Transplantation Research Program (CDTRP), this annual event is a unique opportunity to bring together medical professionals, scientists, patients and stakeholders of all interests in organ donation and transplantation from across Canada.

This community works together to foster a future which will increase access to organs, cells and tissues, and improve health outcomes for Canadians living with a transplant. The meeting was a key networking and knowledge exchange event that attracted more than 350 participants.

Highlights

As part of the opening keynote address on Oct. 16, the audience experienced two very diverse life-saving perspectives.

Winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Economics, Alvin Roth of Stanford University, presented the opening plenary titled “Kidney Exchange: an opportunity for cooperation in North America”, a look at the impacts of cross-border kidney sharing. Dr. Roth helped design the high school matching system used in New York City, and is one of the early founders and designers of kidney exchange in the United States, which helps incompatible patient-donor pairs find compatible kidneys for transplantation.

The parents of Logan Boulet, Toby and Bernadine, shared their perspective on organ donation and transplantation as a donor family. Logan Boulet made the decision to be an organ donor just weeks before his passing in the tragic Humboldt Broncos bus crash in April 2018. Inspired to register by his coach and mentor, Ric Suggit, who became an organ donor following his death in 2017, Logan registered his decision and took the wise and necessary step of sharing his decision with his family. 

Tweet from CST participant with photos of the Boulets presenting

 

Logan’s legacy lives on and continues to inspire Canadians to register their intent to become organ donors. The first annual Green Shirt Day was held on April 7, 2019 in Logan’s honour. This annual tribute continues to raise awareness and honour the selfless gift that is organ donation.

Bernadine and Toby Boulet share their perspective as a donor family
Bernadine and Toby Boulet share their perspective as a donor family

A number of sessions throughout the conference provided insight into the work being done in Canada and internationally to push the boundaries of ‘higher risk’ donors, and especially to increase the uptake and usage of Hepatitis C (NAT positive) donor organs for healthy waitlisted patient.

On Oct. 17, during a lunch symposium, Sean Delaney, associate director of listing and allocation at Canadian Blood Services, brought his unique perspective as both transplant professional and as a kidney recipient (a generous gift from his brother), currently on the waitlist for a second kidney. His presentation was titled “Patient perspective on the marginal or high risk offer vs. waiting for a 'better' offer.”

Delaney, based in Edmonton, Alta., was part of building the original Kidney Paired Donation (KPD) program, as well as implementing the highly sensitized patient (HSP) interprovincial kidney sharing program. Together, the programs have produced more than 1,000 transplants for Canadian patients through interprovincial sharing. Most recently, he has been working to advance heart and liver sharing through the Canadian Transplant Registry.

Photo of Sean Delaney speaking at a podium

 

 

 

Artificial intelligence and machine learning were hot topics at this meeting and the subject of a half-day workshop presented by the CDTRP.

On Oct. 19, a morning session shared further insight into living donation. Dr. John Gill with the University of British Columbia presented about costs incurred by living donors that present a barrier or disincentives to donation. Dr. Rahul Mainra, a transplant nephrologist in Saskatchewan, presented about the impact of kidney paired donation and the importance of ‘matchability’ for kidney paired donation and transplantation. Allison Hunt, who donated her left kidney to a total stranger after a snap decision made at a cocktail party, provided perspectives from an altruistic living donor.

Tweet reading . @amhealey  provided an insightful overview of DCD Hearts: A possible medical legal/ethical framework in  @cst_transplant  Heart Concurrent Session. The patient/donor family engagement that has occurred to investigate this issue is very impressive. #PatientsIncluded #CdnTxSummit2019

 

 

 

 

Kathy Yetzer, associate director of living donation with Canadian Blood Services, presented a poster about key success factors for Canadian living kidney donation transplant programs.
Kathy Yetzer, associate director of living donation with Canadian Blood Services, presented a poster about key success factors for Canadian living kidney donation transplant programs.

The poster sessions brought great insight into the wealth and breadth of research underway across the field. Kathy Yetzer, associate director of living donation with Canadian Blood Services, presented a poster about key success factors for Canadian living kidney donation transplant programs. The findings show that performance success was most influenced by implementation of living donation evaluation efficiencies; engaging program stakeholders; broadening living donation identification and awareness strategies; access to quality assurance resources; increased living kidney donation transplant funding; and operating room availability. 

Tweet reading: Thank you  @umtincka  for an outstanding talk on “Canada’s National Multiorgan Willing to Cross Strategy” - Technology, DNA and Policy/Analysis is the how!  @cst_peds   @cst_transplant  #2019CanadianTransplantSummit

 

 

 

Altogether, CST 2019 was great forum for knowledge exchange and to advance organ and tissue donation and transplantation in Canada. Kudos to the organizing teams at the Canadian Society of Transplantation, Canadian Blood Services and the Canadian Donation and Transplantation Research Program.

Learn more about CST 2019

A tweet from the summit showing animals that look like deer or caribou walking down a path

 

 

 


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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Friday, November 02, 2018
Jenny Ryan

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Lay Science Writing Competition open for submissions!


Tuesday, October 01, 2019 Dr. Geraldine Walsh

Stories underlie all research experiences, and we want to hear them! The 2019 Canadian Blood Services’ Lay Science Writing Competition launches today and is open for submissions until Nov. 29, 2019. This year’s theme is “Stories worth telling”. We’re delighted to once again partner with science communication and research leaders Science Borealis and the Centre for Blood Research at the University of British Columbia to host this competition. 

This is an opportunity for research trainees in the Canadian Blood Services research network, including those at UBC’s Centre for Blood Research and, new this year, the UBC School of Biomedical Engineering, to test their plain writing skills. Submissions should use clear language to describe “Stories worth telling” in the areas of blood, plasma, stem cells or organs and tissues research. Submissions will be judged not just for their clear language, but also on their use of storytelling or narrative techniques to describe the research and the story behind the research. Consider what elements make a good story. Add a human angle or other details that readers will be able to relate to. Tell us about the people behind the research, the impact of the work, the journey, the emotional highs and lows! 

The winning writer will receive a $300 prize and the two runners-up will each receive a $100 prize. Selected entries will be disseminated through the Canadian Blood Services, Science Borealis and the Centre for Blood Research's online platforms and social media channels. 

Please note, the work must be original and not previously published. Click here to access the competition guidelines and the application form. If you have questions, please contact the Centre for Innovation by email at centreforinnovation@blood.ca  

The very best of luck! 

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STORIES WORTH TELLING! Canadian Blood Services’ Centre for Innovation presents Lay Science Writing Competition 2019-20 Call for Submissions Deadline: November 29, 2019 Use plain language to tell the story of your research in blood, plasma, stem cells or organs & tissues Open to members of the Canadian Blood Services extended research trainee network Find out more at blood.ca/research/funding-opportunities

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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Related blog posts


Thursday, November 15, 2018
Jenny Ryan

Use plain language to tell the story of your research in blood, plasma, stem cells or organs & tissues.


Friday, April 05, 2019
Dr. Geraldine Walsh

The results of our first-ever Lay Science Writing Competition are in, read-on to discover who gets top-prize and what happens next.


Thursday, April 18, 2019
Dr. Jennie Haw

Dr. Jennie Haw's prize-winning entry in our Lay Science Writing Competition describes research underway to optimize cord blood donor recruitment for the national, public cord blood bank.

Dr. Donna Wall wins lifetime achievement award


Friday, September 27, 2019 Catherine Lewis

With a medical career spanning almost 40 years, Dr. Donna Wall has made significant contributions to the evolution of blood and marrow transplantation across North America.

After completing paediatric and paediatric hematology/oncology training in the U.S., Dr. Wall went on to establish blood and marrow transplantation and public cord blood programs in cities including St. Louis and San Antonio. Among her many other collaborations, Dr. Wall has contributed to the transplant community upon her return to Canada. She helped launch Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank and served on the organization’s stem cell expert advisory committee for several years.

Despite recent advances in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, there is still a great need for improvement at the pre- and post-transplant stages. Dr. Wall’s research focuses on better understanding the immune system, with the hope of improving patient outcomes — particularly children undergoing transplant. She has also worked on early phase clinical trials exploring gene therapy for treating childhood acute leukemia.

In recognition of her achievements, Dr. Wall received Canadian Blood Services' Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Honouring Canada's Lifeline event in Ottawa on Sept. 23. 

Dr. Wall joined The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and the University of Toronto in 2016 as section head of the blood and marrow transplant/cellular therapy program. She has also chaired the hematopoietic stem cell transplant discipline in the Children’s Oncology Group and holds leadership positions in the Paediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Group, the Canadian Blood and Marrow Transplant Group, and the CIHR-funded Canadian National Transplant Research program.

Dr. Donna Wall

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.

ShareTweetShare

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July marks Cord Blood Awareness Month in certain places around the world. In homage to this important campaign we collected a few related stories from the RED archives and share a bit more information about why Cord Blood matters. Cord blood stem cells can be used in the treatment of more than 80...


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With a focus on improving the lives of patients living with autoimmune diseases, transplant physician and scientist Dr. Harold Atkins has dedicated his career to discovering innovative methods for stem cell transplantation. In the late 1990s, Dr. Atkins and neurologist Dr. Mark Freedman proposed a...


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July is Cord Blood Awareness Month. Since 2014, Canadian Blood Services, in partnership with The Ottawa Hospital, has been running a Cord Blood for Research Program to facilitate cord blood research in Canada.