Joining forces to improve blood research in Canada

Originally posted on the Faculty of Medicine website

The vision of a group of blood researchers 20 years ago grew into Canada’s first interdisciplinary blood research centre—a valuable resource for established and emerging blood scientists.

UBC’s Centre for Blood Research brought together an interdisciplinary team working to develop highly specialized labs to study blood and transfusion science, acting on a recommendation from Canada’s public inquiry into the contaminated blood crisis of the 1980s and 1990s. Justice Horace Krever called for a national, accountable and public health service, strengthened by excellence in blood research.

The partnership of Canadian Blood Services was integral to creating the Centre for Blood Research—the organization provided essential start-up funding and continued to support infrastructure for the centre and its training and education programs.

After 18 productive years, the partners have renewed their collaboration agreement, with the Canadian Blood Services continuing to support the Centre for Blood Research’s leading-edge education, training and knowledge mobilization for the next generation of blood scientists.

“The partnership is really important for trainees like me,” says Wayne (Hanqi) Zhao, one of four graduate students in the Centre for Blood Research who holds a four-year Canadian Blood Services Fellowship. “CBS gives a lot of support for the work we do, and we really appreciate it.”

Education program manager Stefanie Mak (front left) welcomes a new group of summer students to UBC’s Centre for Blood Research in May 2019.

In his work to develop new platelet storage methods for transfusion medicine, Wayne has ease of access to blood products through Canadian Blood Services’ blood for research facility. He also participates in the learning and networking opportunities of the Centre for Blood Research’s two annual international symposia, sponsored by Canadian Blood Services.

“Canadian Blood Services is internationally recognized as one of the leading blood operators in the world, in terms of safety, quality and efficiency. Our association with Canadian Blood Services is a great strength.”

Dr. Ed Conway, Director of the Centre for Blood Research and professor in UBC’s department of medicine

Wayne’s PhD program is supervised by Dr. Dana Devine, Canadian Blood Services’ chief scientist and a professor in UBC’s department of pathology and laboratory medicine. The Centre for Blood Research has been home to many Canadian Blood Services researchers and UBC faculty; currently, Drs. Devine, Ed Pryzdial and Mark Scott.

“The partnership between the Centre for Blood Research and Canadian Blood Services has given scientists access to state-of-the-art technologies that might have been hard to get otherwise,” says Dr. Devine, who conducts laboratory research and has a long and distinguished history of working with blood operators in Canada. “It has also allowed us to be actively involved in training the next generation of transfusion scientists, empowering future generations of researchers to continue this vital work.”

Dr. Devine was involved in writing the grant application to the Canada Foundation for Innovation to establish a new blood research centre at UBC. Once the grant was approved and the federal and provincial funding was in place, a partnership with the Canadian Blood Services was a natural next step.

Dr. Devine was already working with the organization, which has a deep interest in advancing research in blood and transfusion science.

The Centre for Blood Research allows for collaboration between Canadian Blood Services scientists and other Centre for Blood Research scientists that wouldn’t necessarily happen otherwise.

“The researchers benefit from being around one another and our trainees learn about Canadian Blood Services’ processes and methodologies, and they benefit greatly from the expertise.” says Dr. Conway.