Plasma

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

Earl W. Davie Symposium – 13 years of inspiration


Thursday, December 19, 2019 Dr. Geraldine Walsh

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.

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Thursday, December 13, 2018
Guest Author

In November, the University of British Columbia Centre for Blood Research (CBR) hosted its 12th annual Earl W. Davie Symposium in Vancouver, BC. During the event, researchers, students, clinicians and patients discussed successes and ongoing challenges in hematology, from understanding basic mechanisms of clotting to improving patient care.


Wednesday, December 06, 2017
Dr. Geraldine Walsh

Drs. Earl W. Davie, Ross T. MacGillivray and Edmond H. Fischer at the 2017 Earl W. Davie Symposium Vancouver. Read all about this years event and find out more about the inspiration behind it.


Thursday, May 17, 2018
Dr. Geraldine Walsh

On April 10th, 2018, the Centre for Blood Research presented its 8th Annual Norman Bethune Symposium. This event honours Canadian physician, Dr. Norman Bethune, who in the 1930s spearheaded the implementation of the earliest practical mobile blood collection and distribution systems. Image During...

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


Friday, November 29, 2019 Dr. Geraldine Walsh

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.

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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, 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...


Thursday, May 11, 2017
Jenny Ryan

Ruqayyah Almizraq became interested in science because "it is like a magic window that opens up a whole new world."

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.

The science behind young blood


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 effects of aging, but young blood is an area where science might be beginning to imitate art — at least, sort of.

“When we talk about young blood, we’re really talking about two streams of work,” says Dr. Jason Acker, a senior scientist at Canadian Blood Services’ Centre for Innovation and professor at University of Alberta.

“There’s the more conventional work, looking at how donor factors influence characteristics of blood and outcomes for patients, then there’s another, perhaps more controversial one looking at whether blood from young donors can rejuvenate older patients.”

Image
Jason Acker

Acker is doing the first stream of work. His team has been the first to show that red blood cells from young women are hardier and younger on average than those of men, and less likely to die during storage in the blood bag. This doesn’t necessarily lead to better outcomes for patients, though – that’s why Acker’s supporting a randomized control trial involving thousands of patients. The trial is tracking outcomes between sex-matched blood transfusions (i.e. female to female or male to male) and sex-mismatched transfusions.

The other type of work is born from studies that showed if you take a young rat and attach its circulation to an older rat (called “parabiosis”), the older rat got healthier and showed signs of rejuvenation. Was it getting younger?

“That kickstarted a renewed fascination with whether blood from young donors can rejuvenate older recipients,” says Acker. “Now there’s an explosion of research in the biology of aging, and we know there are naturally occurring molecules in the blood of young mice that, when injected into older mice, reproduces many of the regenerating effects from the parabiosis studies.”

The discovery of one of these molecules, growth differentiation factor 11 (GDF11), became one of the journal Science’s top 10 breakthroughs of the year in 2014.

“So something that was originally presented in a very controversial way is now seeing science catch up as we identify new things,” Acker says.

There’s a lot of work going on in these areas, but these studies are with animals not people, and there is no proven safe and effective therapy to prevent or undo aging using young blood. This doesn’t stop some from trying, though — companies in the United States have offered “young plasma” transfusions under the guise of clinical trials, costing thousands of dollars to the recipient.

In summary, consider starving a vampire this spooky season by donating blood, and avoid unproven expensive “therapies” — because those are really scary. Happy Halloween!

Image
A graphic of a beaker with bats flying out of it, and the words "The science behind young blood"

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, June 07, 2018
Dr. Kendra Hodgkinson

For this instalment of “Meet the researcher”, we met with Dr. Jason Acker, a senior research scientist at Canadian Blood Services who specializes in the manufacturing and storage of blood components. “What gets me up in the morning is the knowledge that through the work of my team and my...


Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Jenny Ryan

While blood transfusion is safer now than ever before, scientists continue to look for ways to reduce risk and ensure the healthiest possible outcomes for patients. A unique collaboration between Canadian Blood Services, The Ottawa Hospital and Université Laval has led to some interesting and...


Wednesday, May 22, 2019
Dr. Geraldine Walsh

Dr. Jason Acker was recently awarded the University of Alberta Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) Graduate Student Supervisor Award. We chatted to Dr. Acker to find out what this award means to him.

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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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.

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


Thursday, September 19, 2019 Dr. Geraldine Walsh

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.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019
Dr. Geraldine Walsh

Dr. Jason Acker was recently awarded the University of Alberta Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) Graduate Student Supervisor Award. We chatted to Dr. Acker to find out what this award means to him.


Thursday, June 07, 2018
Dr. Kendra Hodgkinson

For this instalment of “Meet the researcher”, we met with Dr. Jason Acker, a senior research scientist at Canadian Blood Services who specializes in the manufacturing and storage of blood components. “What gets me up in the morning is the knowledge that through the work of my team and my...


Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Jenny Ryan

Led by Dr. Sandra Ramirez, a development scientist at Canadian Blood Services’ Centre for Innovation, this research project led to a new standard that will reduce the number of discarded red blood cell units. By Jenny Ryan and Patrick Walton The issue Since the 1970s, blood operators have limited...

From artificial intelligence to whale poop, and everything in between


Thursday, September 12, 2019 Dr. Geraldine Walsh

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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By Sarah Bowers, Undergraduate Student, Brown Lab, Centre for Blood Research This post was originally published on the Centre for Blood Research blog. It has been republished here with permission with minor edits. What is involved in getting blood that has been donated at a mobile clinic in Campbell...

Research trainees on why eligibility, donor care, and science blogging matter to them


Friday, September 06, 2019 Canadian Blood Services trainees
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The authors (l-r): Wenhui Li, Carly Olafson, and Anusha Sajja
This blog post's authors, Wenhui Li, Carly Olafson and Anusha Sajja

On the 30th of May 2019, an eager group of Canadian Blood Services trainees gathered In Calgary, Alta. for the Centre for Innovation’s Research Trainee Workshop. The day started with an in-depth look at donor eligibility, before moving on to a donor-focused tour of the clinic and concluding with a seminar on science blogging.

The experience prompted three attendees - Wenhui Li, Carly Olafson and Anusha Sajja - from the Acker Lab at Canadian Blood Services Edmonton to ask themselves the following:

What do the donation criteria mean to me, as a researcher? 

As trainees conducting research at Canadian Blood Services, we have a strong understanding of how vital donation criteria are to the safety of our national blood supply. Donor and recipient safety are paramount, and the criteria provide a structure to ensure the health of all Canadians. Canada is a diverse country and each donor is different from the next; our donor selection criteria, while rigid in their application, are always adapting to best serve Canadians. We understand that as researchers, our work can play a role in positive change to these criteria.

The donation criteria exist as a hefty heap of paper in a carefully arranged binder. As we flipped through those pages it became clear the immense amount of research that had gone into creating such a thorough guide for donor eligibility. It is our goal to put that same amount of care and meticulous detail into the work that we do in our laboratory.

Safeguard. Engage. Improve. These three words express Canadian Blood Services’ commitment to Canadians to maintain and protect the blood system. We choose to emulate these same values as we work to optimize the collection, processing, and storage of blood products through our research.

Learn more about donor eligibility criteria here.

What does donor care mean to me, as a researcher?

After delving into donor selection criteria, we stretched our legs on a tour of the donor centre. We were lucky enough to follow a platelet donor through the centre as he checked in and prepared for his donation. A cheerful greeting as he walked through the door, a comfortable chair to sit in while he waited, carefully worded questions: all to ensure his donor experience was as pleasant as possible.  Then we heard from the donor himself. He spoke about how he drove two hours to donate platelets after receiving a call that he was a match. The commitment and the sacrifice he made was astounding. We realized just how selfless these donors are and suddenly the intense care that goes into each donor experience made sense. They are giving part of themselves to save the life of a complete stranger; they deserve every ounce of comfort we can provide.

After the donor centre tour, Anusha Sajja recalled her time volunteering in a blood bank back in India where blood units for patients in need were often sought from relatives, as patients were unable to rely solely on the selfless donations of strangers. The country lacked an adequate supply of blood products to ensure the health of its citizens. The experience made it clear that our blood system is a unique and invaluable one, further emphasizing the need for outstanding donor care to ensure donors continue to contribute to the lifeline that is our blood system.

Learn more about Canadian Blood Services’ commitment to patient safety and to donors.

How can science blogging help us as researchers?

Writing as a researcher usually means reports, project proposals, theses, or grant applications. But what if we want more? What if we want to write about science not only for other scientists but also for the general population? That is where the art of blogging can provide the freedom to educate and inform, without the strict format that can come with other types of writing.

Centre for Innovation knowledge broker Geraldine Walsh encouraged us to share our research with a larger audience through blogging, with extra attention to using language that is not only informative but also accessible. After all, what good are any of our results if they aren’t shared with the world? Not everyone wants to trudge through journal articles, trying to decipher results, but most people have an innate curiosity that drives them to learn. That is where blogging fits into the world of scientific discovery; providing an avenue for all to learn about the research that we have put so much care into.

At the end of the day we all concluded that the Research Trainee Day was a huge success. We left feeling inspired; our minds were reinvigorated with the knowledge that what we do really does matter. The experience motivated us to delve into our research, knowing that we can contribute to positive change for donor selection and care. And lastly, we gained an appreciation for the art of blogging as a means to share our ideas and our discoveries with the world.

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Attendees at the 2019 Research Trainee Workshop at the Eau Claire donor centre in Calgary
Attendees at the 2019 Research Trainee Workshop at the Eau Claire donor centre in Calgary


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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New research suggests novel uses for a plasma-derived medication


Thursday, August 29, 2019 Catherine Lewis

A treatment now used to fight two diseases might have the potential to help patients with other conditions, too, according to new research funded by Canadian Blood Services. 

The new publication, “Treating murine inflammatory diseases with an anti-erythrocyte antibody,” came out Aug. 21 in Science Translational Medicine, a high-impact scientific journal.

Canadian Blood Services supplies hospitals with anti-D, a medication made from human plasma, to treat the autoimmune disease immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) and to prevent hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn. Plasma is the protein-rich liquid in blood that helps other blood components circulate throughout the body. Anti-D is a solution of antibodies against a protein on red blood cells, made from the plasma of donors. At this time, anti-D isn’t indicated for any other diseases. 

In this new study, Dr. Alan Lazarus, a research scientist and immunologist at the Canadian Blood Services Centre for Innovation, discovered that a red blood cell antibody called Ter119 works in three mouse models of inflammatory arthritis, as well as one model of transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI). TRALI is very rare, but it’s one of the leading causes of transfusion-related deaths, and there is no good treatment for it. These findings suggest that anti-D may be a possible treatment for these diseases in humans.

“The knowledge that anti-D could be used to treat TRALI as well as autoimmune diseases other than ITP is good news for patients,” says Dr. Lazarus. “This may have broad therapeutic potential.”

If it’s demonstrated to work in humans, this approach may also provide an alternative to immune suppression, which is how doctors typically approach autoimmune disorders, but not a good option for everyone.

This work is basic research using mouse models, and an essential step in improving medical understanding and opening doors to new possibilities for better patient care


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Dr. Alan Lazarus

Dr. Alan Lazarus is a scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital’s Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science and a professor at the University of Toronto. This work received funding support from Canadian Blood Services, funded by the federal government (Health Canada) and the provincial and territorial ministries of health. The views expressed in the publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the federal government of Canada, or provincial or territorial governments. The work also received funding from Canadian Institutes of Health Research, CSL Limited, and CSL Behring, a biopharmaceutical company that produces human anti-D.


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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