Centre for Blood Research Attracts Top Investigators

UBC Reports | Vol.
51 | No. 3 |
Mar. 3, 2005

By Hilary Thomson

A key member of the new Life Sciences Institute is the Centre
for Blood Research (CBR), a multidisciplinary facility that
is unique in the world.

“No other research centre brings together biomedical,
clinical and social scientists with ethicists, dentists and
engineers,” says Ross MacGillivray, a biochemist and
director of CBR.

Through a more than $15 million grant from the Canada Foundation
for Innovation (CFI), the centre pulls together 14 principal
investigators who had previously been working in seven buildings
scattered across campus with 19 other UBC researchers. Together
with staff, students and trainees, a total of 120 CBR members
will occupy 3,000 sq. metres of research space on the fourth
floor of the LSC.

“The range of expertise allows us to do a comprehensive
job – to look at everything from molecular science to social
factors that influence blood donation,” says MacGillivray.
“The best part is being able to interact with colleagues
every day.”

The long-term goal of the CBR is to create new knowledge
that will help make Canada a donor-free society by 2025.

Canadian Blood Services (CBS) estimates that only 3.5 per
cent of eligible Canadians donate blood. With an aging boomer
population and increasing numbers of cancer, transplantation
and hip replacement surgeries, the need for donated or artificial
blood and blood products is becoming critical.

The CBR was created in response to recommendations of the
Krever commission that investigated Canada’s tainted
blood scandal of the ’80s and ’90s where patients
were given blood products that were unknowingly contaminated
with HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C. A major factor in the crisis,
says MacGillivray, was the shortage of blood scientists to
respond to ermerging threats to Canada’s blood supply
program. That’s why the CBR mandate includes a training
program to help build Canada’s expertise.

The centre has proven a magnet for outstanding researchers.
Three Canada Research Chairs are associated with the centre
and MacGillivray — who himself is a world expert in blood
clotting proteins — feels that the CBR will be an excellent
recruitment tool to attract top scientists, like Mark Scott.

Coming to UBC from Albany Medical School in the U.S., Scott
looks at immunocamouflage. The process uses a compound to
mask antigens in blood cells, platelets, and other blood components
so the body doesn’t “see” the blood cells
as being foreign. The process would allow patients to accept
cells of more than one blood type, greatly expanding available

Other research areas include improving storage time and
quality of donated blood as well as creating artificial blood
components, such as albumin that is used to treat surgical
and burn patients.

Research and training at the CBR are part of a network involving
blood scientists from other Canadian universities as well
as the Puget Sound Blood Center. Support within the centre
comes from the CFI, the B.C. Knowledge Development Fund, Canadian
Blood Services, Bayer Inc., the Canadian Institutes of Health
Research, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research,
and UBC.

For more information on the CBR, visit www.cbr.ubc.ca.
For information on blood supply and blood research, visit