This award honors Tibor Greenwalt, MD, who was the first registrant at the first AABB Annual Meeting and founding editor of “Transfusion.” The award recognizes an individual who has made major scientific or clinical contributions to hematology, transfusion medicine or cellular therapies, and succinctly communicated these advances. Recipient is selected by a joint committee composed of leaders from the Cellular Therapies Section Coordinating Committee and the Transfusion Medicine Section Coordinating Committee, with formal approval by AABB’s Board of Directors.
Martin L. Olsson, MD, PhD
Professor of Transfusion Medicine
Medical Director of the Nordic Blood Group Reference Laboratory
For his outstanding achievements in the study of the molecular genetics of red-cell surface antigens, particularly carbohydrate histo-blood group systems (e.g., ABO and P1PK), DNA-based blood group typing, and blood-group related host-pathogen interactions. His work has led to the recognition of three blood group systems (GLOB, FORS and VEL). He is also well known for his ability to make complex biological processes understandable to people outside of the field.
Award will be presented at the Tibor Greenwalt Memorial Award and Lectureship
Sunday, October 8, 2017; 9:20 am – 10:00 am
San Diego Convention Center, Room 20A
AABB: Congratulations on receiving the Tibor Greenwalt Memorial Award and Lectureship. What does this award mean to you?
Olsson: Needless to say, I am deeply honored to receive this prestigious award. Even if I have received awards from other organizations including the ISBT, BBTS and the Swedish Society of Transfusion Medicine in the past, I was really surprised and feel very proud about this one, since it is my first from AABB. Also, it is of course overwhelming to receive an award that commemorates one of the legends in our field. It is pretty daunting to realize that Dr. Greenwalt had already been the founding editor of Transfusion for five years when I was born.
AABB: Tell us a little bit more about the work carried out by Lund University to improve compatibility between donors and transfusion recipients.
Olsson: In Lund, Sweden, we were quite early to adopt the molecular revolution and started offering blood group genotyping as a clinical service in the mid-1990s. We also performed fetal blood group typings, first on cellular DNA in amniotic fluid and, later on, free fetal DNA in maternal plasma. Since 2001, we have officially served as the Reference Laboratory for the countries in the Nordic region, using DNA-based blood group typing to resolve blood group discrepancies in blood donors and patients. The service has also been open to other countries, and especially for genetic typing of carbohydrate-based blood groups we have received patient and donor samples from all continents.
We were also involved in an EU project which resulted in the first microarray-based blood group genotyping platform to be CE-marked for clinical use. Today, we provide red cell units with extended blood group matching to all chronically transfused children and many of the adults to minimize immunization. We also screen blood donors for rare blood group alleles to increase the availability of special units. Finally, we have a very active research program aiming to reveal the molecular and genetic bases of orphan blood group antigens and so-called emerging blood groups. Not until we know what genetic polymorphism underlies a certain phenotype can we implement molecular typing to detect it.
AABB: How can the ability to identify more precise differences between blood groups lead to improved patient outcomes?
Olsson: I will give you a couple of examples: If we are not sure what ABO or RhD blood group a donor has, then we cannot use his or her blood for transfusion to patients. Also, if a certain patient requires blood of a special type, it is crucial for the blood service to know which donors have this type. In the future, it is not unlikely that we can grow designed red cells suitable for a certain patient, particularly those in need of chronic transfusions and of unusual phenotypes. Also, molecular characterization is now part of complicated antibody work-ups to make sure that patients get the right kind of blood.
AABB: As an international member, how did you first get acquainted with AABB?
Olsson: I think I first got in contact with what was then the American Association of Blood Banks when I published a paper in Transfusion 1996, then went to the AABB Annual Meeting the year after. On site in Denver, I watched two of my role models in the field, Prof. David Anstee and Dr. Geoff Daniels, receive AABB awards. Little did I know that some 20 years later, I would get the honor myself.