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

Centre for Blood Research Attracts Top Investigators

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 supply.

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 www.bloodservices.ca.

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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