Joining forces to improve blood research in Canada

UBC’s Centre for Blood Research brings blood scientists together and helps train the next generation

September 24, 2020
Image of the cafeteria of the Centre for Blood Research buidling

An idea born over Friday night beers among a group of blood researchers grew into Canada’s first interdisciplinary blood research centre, and a valuable resource for established and emerging blood scientists.

The fateful meeting was in 2002, following significant changes to Canada’s blood system. In 1997, Canada’s public inquiry into the contaminated blood crisis of the 1980s and 1990s culminated in Justice Horace Krever’s recommendation for a national, accountable and public blood service. The following year, Canadian Blood Services was established to fulfill this need, and Canada now has one of the safest blood systems in the world.

Back to the blood scientists in the bar. They were thinking about another recommendation of Krever’s: that Canada needed to pursue research excellence in blood and transfusion medicine because a lack of expertise in transfusion science was one of the root causes of the contaminated blood crisis. This is where they knew they could help, and they decided they would. And that they’d aim high.

“We wrote a grant application for a little over $15 million to the Canadian Foundation for Innovation to establish a new research centre at UBC, full of lofty goals,” says Dr. Dana Devine, who is now Canadian Blood Services’ chief scientist. She also maintains her lab and faculty appointment at UBC and has a long and distinguished history of working with blood operators in Canada.

Image of Dana Devine - Canadian Blood Services’ chief scientist.

Dr. Dana Devine, Canadian Blood Services’ chief scientist and one of the founding members of the Centre for Blood Research.

The grant was approved. The funding model, however, meant the initiative would get 40 per cent of its funding from the federal government. The scientists successfully applied to the province for another 40 per cent.

They also turned to Canadian Blood Services. It was a natural partnership, since Dr. Devine was already working with the organization, and we have a deep interest in advancing research in blood and transfusion science. Canadian Blood Services became a permanent partner, providing 10 per cent of the start-up funding for the Centre for Blood Research, and continuing to collaborate in numerous ways, including providing funding to support infrastructure for the centre and its training and education programs.

So the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Blood Research was born, and its interdisciplinary team worked to develop highly specialized labs to study blood and transfusion science. This research centre has since been home to many Canadian Blood Services researchers; currently, Drs. Devine, Ed Pryzdial and Mark Scott.

“Canadian Blood Services is internationally recognized as one of the leading blood operators of the world, in terms of safety, quality and efficiency,” says Dr. Ed Conway, director of the Centre for Blood Research. “Our association with Canadian Blood Services is a great strength.”

Canadian Blood Services also supports the Centre for Blood Research through its ongoing support for education, training, and knowledge mobilization activities, via a collaboration agreement managed by our Centre for Innovation.

“Our trainees learn about Canadian Blood Services’ processes and methodologies, and they benefit greatly from the expertise,” says Dr. Conway.

Likewise, the researchers benefit from being around one another. 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.

“Our partnership with the Centre for Blood Research has given Canadian Blood Services’ scientists access to state-of-the-art technologies that might have been hard to get otherwise,” says Dr. Devine. “It’s 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.”

Through its Centre for Innovation, Canadian Blood Services’ collaboration agreement with the Centre for Blood Research was extended recently and will run until 2024. This agreement formalizes the next iteration of this long-standing partnership. Through this partnership, Canadian Blood Services is proud to continue to support and work collaboratively with the Centre for Blood Research to disseminate and promote transfusion science and medicine knowledge.

Share this story


Related stories