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.

Earl W. Davie Symposium – 13 years of inspiration


Thursday, December 19, 2019

Since its inauguration in 2007, I have had the pleasure of attending almost all Earl W. Davie Symposia. Both this event and the annual Norman Bethune Symposium are cornerstones of the academic calendar at the Centre for Blood Research, a multidisciplinary biomedical research institute in Vancouver, BC, which conducts innovative research in blood and blood-related processes.

Dr. Davie, in whose honour this symposium is held, is truly a giant in the world of biochemistry and blood coagulation. His research to understand the proteins involved in blood coagulation led him to be one of the first scientists to describe how blood clots. This work was published in a seminal paper in the journal Science in 1964. Dr. Davie’s work in the field continued and his contributions to advancing understanding of blood clotting, disorders related to clotting (e.g. hemophilia) and to developing therapies are immense.

Dr. Earl W. Davie (left) enjoying presentations at the 13th annual Earl W. Davie Symposium in Vancouver. (Photo courtesy of the Centre for Blood Research.)
Dr. Earl W. Davie (left) enjoying presentations at the 13th annual Earl W. Davie Symposium in Vancouver. (Photo courtesy of the Centre for Blood Research.)

Despite a career spanning seven decades it seems Dr. Davie’s interest in the field of protein biochemistry and blood coagulation has not waned. He is a member of the US National Academy of Science and a Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry at the University of Washington. The now 92-year-old has attended almost all the symposia held in his honour, making the journey from Seattle to Vancouver. He missed the 2018 symposium due to ill health, so it was especially wonderful to see him in Vancouver this year.

The lineup of presenters for the 2019 symposium was impressive. To read a more detailed account of the presentations, please visit the Centre for Blood Research's blog

(L-R): Dr. Ross MacGillivray, a founder of the Centre for Blood Research and a former student of Dr. Davie’s, with Dr. Davie, Jim Davie (Dr. Davie’s son), and Dr. Dominic Chung, also a former student of Dr. Davie. (Photo courtesy of the Centre for Blood Research.)
(L-R): Dr. Ross MacGillivray, a founder of the Centre for Blood Research and a former student of Dr. Davie’s, with Dr. Davie, Jim Davie (Dr. Davie’s son), and Dr. Dominic Chung, also a former student of Dr. Davie. (Photo courtesy of the Centre for Blood Research.)

My highlights of the 2019 symposium included the talk by Dr. David Lillicrap (Queen’s University), recipient of the first-ever Naiman-Vickars Professorship. Dr. Lillicrap began with some historical perspectives on hemophilia therapy. Advances over the past decades mean therapies for hemophilia are safe and generally effective, but there are drawbacks – current treatments are inconvenient, can cause immune reactions, and are expensive and not accessible to everyone. Dr. Lillicrap described ongoing innovations in this field, including gene therapy, cellular therapy and engineering approaches, which are heralding several promising new and improved therapies - the future of hemophilia care.

Dr. Joseph Italiano’s (Harvard) presentation on the production of platelets was fascinating. Platelets are small cellular fragments that are central to blood clotting. Dr. Italiano’s work to understand how platelets are produced in the body is informing efforts (with the company Platelet Biogenesis) to produce functional bio-engineered human platelets outside the body.  

My final highlight was Dr. Nigel Mackman’s (UNC Chapel Hill) presentation about coagulation defects associated with cancer. Dr. Mackman explained that cancer patients are at a 4- to 7-fold increased risk of thrombosis – inappropriate clotting in the blood vessels that can lead to pulmonary embolism, heart attacks, or stroke. Dr. Mackman is working to understand why this is the case and look for markers that could be used to determine which patients are most at risk.

ttendees discuss posters during the 13th annual Earl W. Davie Symposium.
Attendees discuss posters during the 13th annual Earl W. Davie Symposium. (Photo courtesy of the Centre for Blood Research.)

What is always evident at this symposium is the continued impact of Dr. Davie’s work on the field. Every year, we hear how Dr. Davie’s research and discoveries remain relevant and continue to inform the work of other experts as they try to answer critical questions in coagulation and improve therapies for patients. This, to me, is the ultimate testament to the remarkable body of work generated by Dr. Davie over the course of his career.

The Centre for Blood Research at the University of British Columbia hosts three Canadian Blood Services scientists and affiliated staff, postdoctoral fellows and students. Canadian Blood Services and the Centre for Innovation are proud to partner with the Centre for Blood Research to deliver training and education events including the annual Earl W. Davie Symposium.


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

From whole blood to blood components…and back again!


Thursday, December 05, 2019
Image
whole blood bag

 

What’s old is new again. Recent research has shown that whole blood may be the best fluid to replace what’s being lost in actively bleeding patients. However, for the past 50 or so years, whole blood for transfusion has not been readily available in Canada or many other countries. To support the (re)-introduction of this product to the Canadian Blood Services formulary, the Centre for Innovation’s product and process development group, under the leadership of Ken McTaggart, has been working to understand this product and the optimal processes to produce and store it. How did we get here? A quick recap of the history of blood transfusion will help explain.

Necessity is the mother of invention

The history of blood transfusion is intimately linked with efforts to save the lives of soldiers, particularly during the First World War. The types of injuries sustained by soldiers on the front lines of conflict can be horrific and quickly lead to “traumatic hemorrhagic shock” – massive and potentially fatal blood loss. Fluid resuscitation – replacing the lost fluid – is necessary to save patients with shock. During the First World War, fluid resuscitation was often done using saline solution or other colloid solutions.

The introduction of citrated whole blood was an important early innovation in blood banking that took place during the First World War. Citrate is an anticoagulant – it prevents blood from clotting. Adding it to whole blood allowed the donor and the patient to be separated in time and space for the first time. Canadian physician L. Bruce Robertson was a pioneer of this approach. He drew blood from donors, added citrate and stored the blood in one-litre glass bottles. The blood could be stored for several days, and the bottles packed in boxes with sawdust and ice and sent to the front lines for transfusion to casualties.

For the next 50 years after the First World War, citrated whole blood was the standard transfusion product provided for patients in military and civilian settings.

The era of blood component therapy

In the 1960s, another innovation heralded a dramatic change in blood banking and blood transfusion. The advent of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) “plastic” containers and closed sterile sets of tubing ushered in the era of blood component therapy. This led to a big shift in the way blood was processed and transfused to patients. Blood could now be separated into its components – red blood cells, plasma and platelets. This brought many advantages. The components can be stored separately using the optimal storage conditions and shelf lives for each component. A single blood donation can be made into several products and can help more patients. Patients can be given just the component they needed, which reduces the risk of adverse reactions.

Finding balance

Component therapy has remained the standard of care in almost all clinical situations for the past 50 years, including trauma. Blood components, as well as crystalloids and colloids, became standard therapy for patients with active bleeding. There were, however, some drawbacks with early approaches following the shift away from whole blood transfusion. This led to a shift in recent years to a new standard-of-care approach: balanced transfusion of components for patients who are actively bleeding. In many trauma centres, these “massive transfusion protocols” give plasma, platelets, and red blood cells in a balanced 1:1:1 or 1:1:2 ratio.

Recognizing the limits

Even more recently, there’s been growing recognition that adherence to these massive transfusion protocols can be difficult or impossible. For the military, the different storage requirements for each component and other logistical challenges make it difficult to provide the components where they are needed. In rural or remote civilian trauma centres, platelets are rarely available, and plasma, if available, needs to be thawed which takes time. Even in large urban centres, the necessity of multiple components, which means multiple fridges/freezers, multiple bags, and overall a highly complex protocol, can lead to challenges. These constraints are especially important when you consider that for patients suffering from traumatic hemorrhagic shock, time is critical. The window to save these patients’ lives is counted in minutes, not hours.

What’s old is new again

Recent research has shown that the optimal fluid to replace what’s being lost by actively bleeding patients is likely whole blood. Transfusing whole blood increases the fluid volume, while treating the loss of oxygen and helping to promote blood clotting. It simplifies the resuscitation efforts, particularly in austere, pre-hospital or military environments. Clinical evidence has shown that whole blood is no worse than, and is perhaps better than, current trauma protocols. Even more promising, if the whole blood is stored cold before transfusion, it appears to have an equal or better effect on bleeding than component therapy, which uses platelets stored at room temperature.

Why the need for research?

Despite it not being a new approach, there are many questions that need to be answered to successfully re-introduce whole blood to the formulary. Since whole blood was last used, it has become standard practice to leukoreduce components. This is a process that removes white blood cells from blood components and increases their safety by reducing the risk of adverse reactions. Questions remain about how best to incorporate leukoreduction into the whole blood production process. There are also questions about how long whole blood can be stored.

Another critical question is which whole blood product should be produced. Component therapy allows for “universal” components to be made available – components that can be transfused to anyone (i.e.: AB plasma or O red blood cells). There is, however, is no “universal” whole blood. This could be a drawback, especially because whole blood will be used in trauma situations where time is critical and the patient’s blood type might not be known. There are, however, blood types that are more suitable for transfusion to many, and these need to be investigated and better understood.

Want to learn more?

Look out for our next “D is for Development” post (coming early 2020) to learn more about the Centre for Innovation’s research work to support the reintroduction of whole blood for transfusion.

Previous posts in the D is for Development series:

From the AABB: Key dates in blood transfusion history


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

Centre for Innovation awards funding to support young researchers and improve blood product use


Friday, November 29, 2019

The Canadian Blood Services Centre for Innovation recently awarded successful applicants to the following funding competitions: 

The Postdoctoral Fellowship Program offers salary support for young investigators. Congratulations to the successful candidates:  

  • Dr. Ruqayyah Almizraq (University of Toronto, training in Dr. Donald Branch’s laboratory): “Development of a drug to replace IVIg, and ADCC as cause for unexplained hemolysis post-transfusion” 

  • Dr. Yfke Pasman (St. Michael’s Hospital; training in Dr. Heyu Ni’s laboratory): “Reducing IVIG usage by developing novel prophylaxis and therapies against FNAIT” 

The Blood Efficiency Accelerator Award Program (or BEAP) aims to improve the efficient and appropriate utilization of blood products, while maintaining the safety of the blood system. Congratulations to the successful candidates: 

  • Dr. Dana Devine (Canadian Blood Services & The University of British Columbia): “Measurement of heavy metals in donor blood in Canada” 

  • Dr. Donald Arnold (McMaster University & McMaster Centre for Transfusion Research): “A study to understand C1 Esterase Inhibitor distribution and patterns of use in Canada” 

  • Dr. Ziad Solh (Western University): “Are cervical cancer brachytherapy outcomes associated with pre-brachytherapy hemoglobin values and transfusion practice? An observational study comparing two academic centres” 

Learn more about our current and previously funded research projects here

Call for applications! 

Do you have an idea that might improve the efficient and appropriate use of blood products? The BEAP competition is currently open with a deadline for receipt of applications of January 24, 2020. 

Coming soon! Keep an eye on our research funding opportunities page for the opening of the latest Intramural Research Grant Program competition (announcement expected mid-December 2019). 

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.

ShareTweetShare

Lay Science Writing Competition open for submissions!


Tuesday, October 01, 2019

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! 

Image
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.

ShareTweetShare

Centre for Innovation scientist recognized for his contributions to the field of cryobiology


Thursday, September 19, 2019

Centre for Innovation scientist Dr. Jason Acker was recently inducted as a Fellow of the Society for Cryobiology, a prestigious international award that recognizes individuals who have had an exemplary impact on the field of cryobiology. Congratulations to Dr. Acker, who received this award over the summer at the Society for Cryobiology’s annual meeting in San Diego.

Dr Jason Acker holds his award in front of a banner for the Society for Cryobiology
Dr. Acker with the Basile J. Luyet medal.
What is cryobiology?

The Society for Cryobiology is the international society for low temperature biology and medicine. Cryobiology is the science of life at low temperatures. It includes the study of cells, organs, and tissues exposed to below normal temperatures. Cryobiology has many applications in the fields of transfusion and transplantation medicine. For example, plasma and red blood cells are frozen (cryopreserved) and platelets are stored at hypothermic temperatures so they can be stored for longer. Freeze-drying (lyophilization) is used to preserve plasma and plasma-derived medicines. Organs for transplantation are preserved under cold (hypothermic) conditions. Cryopreservation and lyophilization are not new processes, but they remain imperfect; freezing, thawing, and drying processes can result in cell or tissue damage. This affects that quality of the thawed cells and tissues. Researchers are continually working to better understand and improve cryopreservation processes.

What's Fellowship in the Society for Cryobiology?

Fellowship in the Society for Cryobiology is awarded to individuals who have made an outstanding and sustained impact on the field of cryobiology. Only 27 scientists have been granted this prestigious award, and Dr. Acker is one of only four Canadians to have been inducted as a Fellow in the society’s 55-year history.

Why was Dr. Acker recognized?

Dr. Acker has had a long-standing and enduring interest in the field of cryobiology, in particular cryopreservation, with publications in the area spanning the past two decades. His work has specifically focused on the development of intracellular protectants as a novel class of molecules that can protect cells and tissues during freezing and drying. Ice recrystallization within cells is the cause of much of the damage that occurs with freezing and thawing. Among other advances, Dr. Acker’s research has improved understanding of how these ice crystals form in cells and what can be done to prevent their formation. Dr. Acker and his team have investigated various “cryoprotectant” solutions that can be used to protect cells from the damage associated with cryopreservation.

Recently, together with his colleague Dr. Robert Ben, Dr. Acker has discovered a new way to prevent ice recrystallization in cells. He is currently working to further understand and develop this unique technology. This work may change the way blood products, stem cells and other cells, tissues and organs are stored in the future. Dr. Acker and his group are also interested in investigating the issues associated with cryopreservation and desiccation processes in the large-scale environment of a blood operator.

In addition to his scientific contributions, Dr. Acker has had extensive and long-standing service to the Society for Cryobiology. As a member since 1996, Dr. Acker served as editor of the society’s newsletter, editorial board member, committee chair, annual meeting co-chair, member of its Board of Governors, and most recently, as president. Through his role as president, Dr. Acker initiated a renewal of the society’s bylaws, committees and working groups, helped establish a permanent secretariat with the hiring of an executive director, and helped redevelop how annual meetings are structured and organized. Dr. Acker was recognized with the society’s highest honour because of his distinguished service to the Society, sustained scientific contributions to the field and his training of the next generation of cryobiologists.

What does this award mean to Dr. Acker?

In Dr. Acker’s own words:

”It is an incredible honour to be inducted as a Fellow of the Society for Cryobiology. I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way to a very 'cool' science that has led to improvements in how we store biological materials for use in transfusion medicine, transplantation, biotechnology, and conservation biology. Through all of this I have had the privilege of working with an outstanding group of research collaborators, technicians, students and industrial partners to realize real impacts from our research. The most exciting thing about working in this area of science is that we are just now starting to see the benefits of more than 20 years of research from our group. The future is very exciting!”

 


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

From artificial intelligence to whale poop, and everything in between


Thursday, September 12, 2019

As Centre for Blood Research (CBR) director Dr. Edward Conway opened Research Day 2019, there was a frisson of nervous tension among the summer studentship trainees sitting in the jam-packed auditorium. These undergraduate students had spent the summer working in the laboratories of the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Blood Research (CBR) and School of Biomedical Engineering. Dr. Conway reminded them of the format for the afternoon; they would each get just 2.5 minutes to summarize their work for the audience. The squawk of a rubber chicken manned by Kevin the timekeeper would be the warning that their time was up.

And so began the rolling presentations. One after another, the students stood and presented their work on an incredibly diverse range of topics. From understanding the molecular mechanisms of breast cancer metastasis to developing microfluidic devices to analyze red blood cell deformability. From the perceived trustworthiness of artificial intelligence in medical decision-making to using social media to effectively communicate science. From 3D printing heart tissue to printing single cells using inkjet nozzles. From designing a low-cost handheld skin cancer detection device to analyzing how pumps for blood transfusions might impact the infused blood. There were thirty-five project presentations in less than two hours. But this daunting agenda delivered. Congratulations to all presenters who did a fantastic job of describing their research and keeping the audience engaged and informed.

Image
3.	Poster session at the CBR Research Day 2019
Poster session at the CBR Research Day 2019 (courtesy of the Centre for Blood Research)

This year for the first time, the CBR Summer Studentship Program was run in partnership with the School of Biomedical Engineering (SBME), an initiative which contributed to the diversity of topics presented. This partnership is a great fit, as noted by Dr. Conway:

“We are thrilled to have had the opportunity to welcome students from the School of Biomedical Engineering into the CBR’s Summer Studentship Program. With rapid developments in technology that contribute to the progress of medicine, constant and effective communication between biomedical engineers and life scientists is essential. I’ve had loads of feedback from this year's summer students, that they enjoyed this chance to “cross-fertilize”… we hope to expand the program!”

After the student presentations, keynote speaker Dave Ireland spoke. Ireland applies his decades of experience as a researcher and teacher to advocate for nature and the conservation of biodiversity. He has worked as a senior curator of conservation and the environment at Toronto Zoo and as the managing director of the Centre for Biodiversity at the Royal Ontario Museum. An advocate of citizen science, Ireland is also the founder of the Ontario BioBlitz, a community-based wildlife survey program that encourages public participation in science. A storyteller and communicator, Ireland asks big questions about how research can effect change in the world.

Image
2.	Keynote speaker, Dave Ireland, presenting at CBR Research Day 2019.
Keynote speaker Dave Ireland presenting at CBR Research Day 2019 (courtesy of the Centre for Blood Research).

By the end of Ireland’s engaging presentation, the audience had learned how whales and their poop could save the planet. Showing some impressive images of copious whale poop, Ireland described how massive phytoplankton blooms can grow around these discharges in the ocean. Whale poop is the ocean’s fertilizer. It recycles iron, an important nutrient for phytoplankton, the tiny organisms that are a major food source in marine ecologies. Like plants, phytoplankton produce oxygen and sequester carbon – linking whales and the delicate balance of the marine ecosystem directly with our planet's ability to adapt to and mitigate climate change.

CBR Research Day is the culmination of the Summer Studentship Program, and an opportunity to recognize the hard work of the summer students and all those in the laboratories who trained and supported them. After the talks, there was a poster session during which the summer students as well as graduate students and post-doctoral fellows affiliated with the CBR were given the opportunity to present their work and chat one-on-one with attendees. Prizes were given for the best poster and oral presentations, and the annual Neil Mackenzie Mentorship Excellence Award was presented.

The Centre for Innovation is proud to partner with the CBR on their Summer Studentship Program and to sponsor the CBR Research Day.

Thinking of becoming a summer student yourself?

The CBR-SMBE Summer Studentship Program provides undergraduate students with an opportunity to get hands-on lab experience. The student’s research work is guided by a principal investigator or postdoctoral fellow, and their experience is enhanced through research skills workshops, tours of campus facilities, and complementary social events.

Visit the Centre for Blood Research website for information and application details.

Image
1.	The summer students with CBR director, Dr. Ed Conway and keynote speaker, Dave Ireland
The summer students with CBR director, Dr. Ed Conway (far right), and keynote speaker, Dave Ireland (middle row, centre). Photo courtesy of the Centre for Blood Research.

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

Research supports equipment change and process improvements


Thursday, August 22, 2019

Two pieces of equipment at the core of our component manufacturing process were recently replaced: the centrifuge, used to spin blood into layers of components; and the blood extractor, used to separate these layers. This was a necessary change as the old equipment was nearing end-of-life. In late Spring 2019, the process of rolling out this new equipment at sites across the country was completed, representing the culmination of several years of work by many groups at Canadian Blood Services.

Back in 2016, a Request for Proposals led to the selection of potential new equipment. Supply chain and the Centre for Innovation’s product and process development group then collaborated to test the equipment at the Centre for Innovation’s Blood4Research facility in Vancouver.

The group initially assessed how useful and effective the potential equipment would be, including its suitability to fit Canadian Blood Services’ component manufacturing processes. They then determined the best centrifuge and extractor settings to balance product quality with process efficiency. To do this, the product and process development group worked closely with supply chain to design and conduct a series of studies that tested various settings and their impact on product quality. This was a complex undertaking. Canadian Blood Services uses two different component manufacturing processes which produce several component types (including red blood cells, plasma, platelets, and cryoprecipitate plasma), and all processes and products needed to be assessed to be confident that product quality could be maintained or improved with the change in equipment.

Learn more about Canadian Blood Services component manufacturing processes here.

The equipment change was leveraged as an opportunity to improve component manufacturing processes, including efficiency and staff ergonomics. Two front-line production staff were brought to Vancouver to assess the usability and ergonomics of the equipment, and to determine the value of the equipment’s new features (e.g. automatic canula breakers). Their feedback was essential in helping choose the equipment that is now being used across the country.

Other opportunities for process improvement were also sought. For example, centrifuge inserts safeguard the whole blood collection bags while they are being centrifuged. Working with an industry partner, the product and process development group developed a more durable and easy-to-wash centrifuge insert made of silicone to replace the older inserts which were foam-based and less durable.

As part of the equipment change, the way Canadian Blood Services produce platelets from whole blood was also streamlined. Several tedious rinsing and mixing steps were eliminated. This new “One Rinse No Mix” pooling method had originally been tested by the product and process development group a few years earlier and was further assessed and adopted for implementation along with the new equipment. This improved method saves staff time and ergonomic strain.

Once the new equipment was chosen, settings and procedures were further fine-tuned to maximize the equipment’s capabilities. Confirmation studies compared the quality of products manufactured using the new equipment to historical quality control data to ensure products continued to be of the highest quality. This work drew on expertise from across the Centre for Innovation and the organization, with products tested at the Blood4Research facility in Vancouver, Centre for Innovation laboratories in Vancouver and Hamilton, and the Canadian Blood Services’ national testing laboratories in Ottawa and Brampton.

The findings from the product and process development group’s assessments provided the evidence needed to choose new equipment while maintaining confidence in the quality of the products provided to hospitals for patients. Supply chain then worked to validate the equipment, processes, and procedures in a real-world production environment, including revising or creating standard operating procedures for component processing. The evidence gathered through these efforts supported a submission to Health Canada to make a change to Canadian Blood Services’ component production procedures and processes. Health Canada approved this submission in April 2018, and the long road towards organization-wide implementation by supply chain began.

Image
Old foam-based centrifuge inserts (left) and longer-lasting silicon inserts (right).
Old foam-based centrifuge inserts (left) and longer-lasting silicon inserts (right).
Image
Whole blood unit separated into plasma, platelets, and red blood cells
A whole blood unit following centrifugation on the new equipment during equipment testing at the Vancouver Blood4Research facility.
Image
three units shown on left of photo) and centrifuge (on the right) in the Canadian Blood Services manufacturing site in Brampton, ON
The new blood extractors (three units shown on left of photo) and centrifuge (on the right) in the Canadian Blood Services manufacturing site in Brampton, ON. (Photo credit: Susan White)

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

2018-2019 Centre for Innovation annual progress report now available


Thursday, August 15, 2019

Housed within Canadian Blood Services’ Medical Affairs and Innovation division, the Centre for Innovation conducts and supports research, development, and knowledge mobilization to ensure a safe, effective, and responsive blood system. This last year was another outstanding one for the Centre for Innovation – the heart of Canadian Blood Services’ research and development activities – as highlighted in the 2018-2019 annual progress report, which was recently published. 

2018-2019 highlights include: 
  • The Centre for innovation supported 124 investigators across Canada through funding and products for research programs. 
  • The Centre for Innovation’s research and innovation network published 163 peer-reviewed publications, delivered over 300 presentations at local, national, and international conferences, and wrote 26 technical reports to share with Canadian Blood Services and partners to support decision-making. 
  • Research from the Centre for Innovation informed improvements to the monocyte monolayer assay, a test that can help choose the safest blood for hard-to-match patients. These improvements helped develop the assay for use in the clinical laboratory, and it will soon “go live” in the Edmonton diagnostics laboratory.  
  • The Centre for Innovation’s product and process development group supported the introduction of a new platelet pooling set, which received Health Canada approval in 2018-2019. The new platelet pooling set is used during production of platelet components from whole blood donations and results in more consistent platelet yields. 
  • The Centre for Innovation published discovery research linking a plasma protein with platelet clotting and suggesting a new link between diet and heart health. Lead scientist, Dr. Heyu Ni, received a prestigious Canadian Institutes of Health Research Foundation Grant. 

The Centre for Innovation is proud to support Canadian Blood Services’ efforts to continuously improve products and processes and to help every patient, match every need, and serve every Canadian and is honoured to be part of “the connection between the profound discoveries of science and the joyful restoration of health.”  

Learn more about Canadian Blood Services’ mission.  

Read the 2018-2019 Centre for Innovation annual progress report in English or French.

Image
1.	Members of the Canadian Blood Services research network at the 2018 ISBT Congress in Toronto
Members of the Canadian Blood Services research network at the 2018 ISBT Congress in Toronto.
Image
2.	Training international students to perform the monocyte monolayer assay. Charlotte Paquet (France), Mairead Holton (Ireland), and Elodie Dupeuble (France) watch Selena Cen (Branch laboratory, Canadian Blood Services) perform the monocyte monolayer assay.
Training international students to perform the monocyte monolayer assay. Charlotte Paquet (France), Mairead Holton (Ireland), and Elodie Dupeuble (France) watch Selena Cen (Branch laboratory, Canadian Blood Services) perform the monocyte monolayer assay.

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

The ethics of doing good research


Thursday, August 08, 2019
Image
Dr. Michael McDonald sits in his office. He is wearing an Argyle sweater vest and has a white beard.
Dr. Michael McDonald, Canadian Blood Services’ Research Ethics Board Chair & Professor Emeritus at the University of British Columbia

Fostering innovation is central to Canadian Blood Services’ mission as Canada’s biological lifeline. The Canadian Blood Services Research Ethics Board (or REB) guides Canadian Blood Services researchers and those who receive research funding, data or biological material from Canadian Blood Services. The REB ensures innovation and research adhere to ethical principles and respects the rights of research participants. I learned more in conversation with REB Chair, Dr. Michael McDonald.

What is the Canadian Blood Services REB and what does it do?

The Canadian Blood Services Research Ethics Board (REB) is a multidisciplinary board established in 2001. The Canadian Blood Services REB reviews all research involving human participants conducted by or on behalf of Canadian Blood Services. This includes all research involving either personal information or biologic materials (e.g. blood, stem cells) collected by Canadian Blood Services. Without approval from the REB, a research project involving human participants cannot go ahead. The REB also advises Canadian Blood Services on bioethical issues inherent in the research reviewed. 

The REB has a responsibility to researchers, but its primary responsibility is to ensure the rights of research participants are protected.


The REB is an arm’s length committee whose decisions not to approve research protocols cannot be reversed by the Canadian Blood Services Executive Management Team or the Canadian Blood Services Board of Directors.


Who is on the Research Ethics Board?

The REB is a multidisciplinary board, currently with seven members. The Chair, Dr. McDonald, a Professor Emeritus of Applied Ethics at the University of British Columbia, has been a leader the field of Canadian research ethics. A major focus of McDonald’s research has been on the experiences of health research participants. Dr. McDonald is both an ethicist and a researcher. This dual perspective helps him balance the responsibilities of the REB to protect individuals’ rights and to foster innovation.

Other REB members include two renowned lawyers, who bring expertise in the legal aspects of research ethics and privacy, two members from the community in general (both are blood donors), and two members from the research community. All members of the REB bring their collective knowledge and expertise in ethics, privacy law, and applied research to bear on the decisions they make.

How does the REB work?

Protecting the rights of individuals

Canadian Blood Services provides researchers with unique sets of data and blood components, cord blood, and expired or discarded products from Canadian Blood Services supply chain. Canadian Blood Services cares about donors, including individuals whose data or biological material may be used for research, and is committed to protecting their rights and maintaining their trust. In Canada, anyone doing research that involves human participants must follow certain ethical guidelines, as outlined in the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans. Researchers wishing to conduct research involving human participants must submit a protocol to the REB before they begin. The REB reviews all research applications to ensure that the proposed research respects the rights and interests of research participants, and follows the the ethical principles laid down in the Tri-Council Policy Statement, and other guiding documents.

Building a bridge to researchers

The REB is a valuable resource for researchers, who may not be fully aware of all ethical concerns that might arise in the course of their research. If there are concerns, the REB raises these with the researchers. They work with researchers to ensure they understand and can address any ethical concerns and sensitivities related to the work they are proposing. 

Taking the broader view

As well as responsibilities to research participants and researchers, the REB has a responsibility to society at large. They assess research to ensure it is appropriate in that broader context, asking questions like “Will it bring value to society?”; “How will the proposed research impact affected communities?” This wider, community-focused view can often be missing in research proposals, which tend to focus instead on the details of the proposed work.

Ethics in a time of big data

Ethics is not static; it is a dynamic field, and ethical concerns and sensitivities change over time, as do the laws and requirements. The REB practices evidence-based ethics, and REB members are continuously learning to ensure they keep informed about developments in the areas of ethics, law, and research.

For example, the advent of “big data” raises interesting questions and issues for individuals (e.g.: what Facebook privacy settings are you comfortable with?) but also opportunities for research and innovation. The REB explores ethical issues around questions such as how large datasets can be used as a resource to advance the health of Canadians?

Canadian Blood Services is committed to keeping data and personal information in its custody secure and confidential. The REB review helps safeguard the security and confidentiality of any data used for research. Through the REB approval process, researchers must consider how they will manage the data, how they will meet confidentiality requirements, how the data will be secured and maintained. For a researcher, REB approval is just the beginning. The researcher must then conduct the research in an ethical manner, and safeguard any data or samples entrusted to them throughout the life cycle of the research. REB approval is an on-going process; approval is needed every year while the research is underway, and each project ends with a termination report to the REB. The termination report provides insights to the REB about project outcomes and the value brought to society.

The REB ensures research integrity – the ethics of doing good research. I’ll leave the last word to Dr. McDonald:

“Some researchers may view REB approval as a necessary if somewhat tedious hoop to jump through. But REB approval is not a pro forma process. It is a very meaningful process. Canadian Blood Services runs on trust. When Canadian Blood Services does (or facilitates) research, a bargain is entered into with research participants: whether they’ve given blood or data, Canadian Blood Services values their contribution and in return promises to use it in a meaningful and ethical way. The REB helps ensure this is the case.”

Dr. Michael McDonald
Canadian Blood Services’ Research Ethics Board Chair
Professor Emeritus at the University of British Columbia


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

Highlights from the Canadian transfusion community’s annual conference


Thursday, July 18, 2019

Calgary, Alberta, in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, played host to this year’s Canadian Society for Transfusion Medicine (CSTM)/Canadian Blood Services/Héma-Québec annual conference. Canadian Blood Services is proud to be a key partner in this conference, which represents the major gathering of Canada’s transfusion medicine and science community each year. Many Centre for Innovation members attend the CSTM conference to network and exchange knowledge with colleagues across Canada. The Centre for Innovation also holds its annual Research Day in the same place and around the same time as the CSTM annual conference each year. I had the opportunity to attend both events and share my highlights here. 

Looking to the future: Centre for Innovation annual Research Day 

On May 29, the extended Canadian Blood Services research network got together to hear the latest developments and discoveries supported by the Centre for Innovation. The Centre for Innovation’s 2019 Research Day looked to the future. A series of talks described work the Centre for Innovation is conducting on “Blood Products of the Future”, which includes research to characterize cold-stored platelets – a transfusion product being explored for use in patients requiring massive transfusion – and to prepare for pathogen inactivation technologies. The “Scientists of the Future” session was an opportunity for Centre for Innovation-affiliated research trainees to give two-minute talks about their research. There were also sessions on new technologies, and advances in the areas of donor and clinical research. Dr. Paul Kubes, an invited speaker from the University of Calgary, gave an excellent talk about his research using advanced microscopy to image platelets in the body – studies that reveal fascinating details about the behaviour of these cell fragments in the body. 

Canadian Blood Services chief scientist Dr. Dana Devine led a discussion of the role of research in “Transfusion Medicine of the Future”. Touching on topics as diverse as the impact of new technologies, products and changing patient needs, to the system-wide challenges that may emerge as a result of climate change, this engaging discussion took full advantage of having a large portion of our usually dispersed research network in the same room.  

Image
Group photo of scientists and trainees
Centre for Innovation Research Day brought together more than 50 members of our internal and external research network.

CSTM 2019: Transfusing wisely 

The CSTM annual conference began the next day. It brings together nurses, physicians, technologists and others involved in transfusion medicine to share information, learn about the most recent developments in the field and appreciate one another’s contributions to providing effective transfusion therapy. Congratulations to all presenters from Canadian Blood Services – with 16 presentations at the conference’s workshops or oral sessions, and 39 poster presentations, Canadian Blood Services’ participation in the program was high as always.  

MSM Research 

For me, a stand-out session was “Changing Donor Management – MSM and Transgender Considerations”. In this session, some eagerly-awaited but still preliminary results from two projects funded by the MSM Research Program were presented. Mike Morrison,  an award-winning writer and entertainment and lifestyle blogger from Calgary, gave an excellent presentation in which he showed the human side of the MSM deferral policy and its impacts. 

Research highlights 

I enjoyed two sessions that highlighted the latest research being conducted by Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec: the “Research Highlights” session and the “Selected Oral Abstracts – Scientific” session. During these we heard about cutting edge research linking viruses and viral infectivity to clotting, new technologies that deepen understanding of blood products, including microfluidics devices to analyze red blood cells and a new type of analyzer for white blood cells. We learned about exciting research to develop monoclonal antibodies as alternative therapies that may someday replace IVIg. There were also talks about the application of research to address issues related to donor health, including iron deficiency anemia. 

A tale of two Canadas 

A final highlight was the session “Transfusion Considerations in the Indigenous Populations and Remote Locations.” This featured three presentations. Jennifer G. Daley Bernier, who has worked in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories for over a decade, described transfusion medicine challenges in Northern Canada. Ann Wilson described transfusion services in Northern Quebec. Darlene Richter and health worker Deanna Twoyoungmen provided the perspectives of Stoney First Nations towards medicine and laboratory procedures. Together these presentations highlighted the many unique challenges to the provision of medical services in northern Canada and to Indigenous people.  

While issues related to geography, weather and dispersed populations abound, it was eye-opening to learn about other perhaps less obvious issues. Communication can be a barrier. For example, there are 11 official languages in the Northwest Territories. To have a system accessible to all, hospital signage and information must be translated into all languages. Many challenges related to the effects of colonization remain. In transfusion medicine, medical histories are critical, but it can be difficult or impossible to get accurate medical histories from people who for various reasons may not have full knowledge of their medical past or who do not trust the medical system. Acknowledging cultural and socio-economic differences and adapting can help ensure everyone in Canada has access to the best care possible. 

These are a few of my highlights. The CSTM conference runs parallel sessions, so it’s impossible to cover everything! Did you attend CSTM 2019 in Calgary? Please comment below to let us know your highlights! 

 

Image
Button that reads We are the science behind the medicine

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