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For Immediate Release
July 31, 2015
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AABB’s National Blood Foundation Awards Five Scientific Research Grants

Bethesda, Md. - The National Blood Foundation, or NBF, Board of Trustees has announced the five recipients of 2015 NBF Scientific Research Grants. James A. Ankrum, PhD; Yacine Boulaftali, PhD; Lindsey A. George, MD; Sarika Saraswati, PhD; and William Savage, MD, PhD, have each been awarded up to $75,000 to pursue either one- or two-year research projects in transfusion medicine, cellular therapies or patient blood management.

“Since 1985, the NBF has dispersed more than $8 million in grants to approximately 200 early career researchers in the fields of transfusion medicine, cellular therapies and patient blood management,” said James Zimring, MD, PhD, chair of the NBF Grants Review Committee. “The NBF grants are essential in ensuring that young research professionals have the opportunity to explore cutting-edge topics that will lead to advancements in patient care.”

The five NBF Scientific Research Grants awarded this year are summarized below. Full descriptions of each researchers work are available on AABB’s website: www.aabb.org/nbf.

James A. Ankrum, PhD, Diabetes Research Center, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
Elucidating the Role of FOXO3 in Restoring the Potency of In Vitro Expanded Mesenchymal Stem Cells.

The ability of mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs, to remodel inflammatory processes has prompted hundreds of clinical trials. However, MSCs have been shown to be highly variable and to deteriorate in culture with time. Previous work has shown that small molecules can be used to restore MSC immunomodulatory potency, but the effect is dependent on FOXO3 activation. Ankrum is investigating the timing of MSCs’ loss of potency during in vitro expansion and is also attempting to identify contributing mechanisms of MSC dysfunction. He and his colleagues hypothesize that expression of the FOXO3 transcription factor in MSCs results in activation of both anti-inflammatory and pro-autophagy gene programs that collectively restore MSC phenotype. If successful, this research will form the basis of future studies that seek to engineer an enhanced MSC-based therapy.

Yacine Boulaftali, PhD, Inserm U1148 — Laboratory for Vascular Translational Science (LVTS), Paris, France
Neutralizing SerpinE2: A New Medical Concept of Treating Hemophilia.

Current treatment of hemophilia includes replacement therapy with recombinant or purified factor VIII (FVIII). However, this approach has several drawbacks. Alternative therapeutic approaches that do not rely on FVIII replacement are of interest. Boulaftali et al. will study the effect of the neutralization or deletion of PN-1 — a natural anticoagulant protein (named protease nexin-1 or serpinE2) — on the hemostasis of the hemophilia-A mouse model. PN-1 is interesting because it is a very effective inhibitor of thrombin and factor Xia and is highly expressed by platelets. The researchers will also assess a variety of in vitro and in vivo models of thrombosis and the hemostasis of PN-1 and FVIII double knockout mice. If successful, this research will provide new insights into the control of thrombin activity and generation that could lead to new therapeutic approaches for the treatment of hemophilia.

Lindsey A. George, MD, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Prothrombin Activation In Vivo: Contribution of Membrane Binding for Effective Hemostasis and Development of a Novel Warfarin Reversal Strategy.

Despite increasing use of targeted oral anticoagulants, warfarin remains the mainstay of thromboembolic intervention, but is complicated by an annual fatal bleeding rate approaching 1 percent. Use of a factor Xa variant, FXaI16L, to bypass warfarin’s effect may prove useful to counteract the effects of warfarin anticoagulation. Early pre-clinical studies demonstrate that FXaI16L quickly stops bleeding in the setting of warfarin anticoagulation and may thereby help to decrease or prevent warfarin related morbidity and mortality. George’s study will investigate FXaI16L’s efficacy in warfarin reversal and its mechanism of action.

Sarika Saraswati, PhD, Vanderbilt University, The Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Nashville, TN
New Strategies to Augment Efficacy of Stem Cell Therapy for Therapeutic Revascularization.

Critical limb ischemia, or CLI, due to severe peripheral artery disease, or PAD, is a debilitating condition characterized by severe pain, gangrene, limb loss and high mortality. The majority of patients are poor surgical candidates making cell-based therapies an innovative option to enhance collateral blood flow. However, trial results have shown that the benefits of bone marrow-derived cell therapies, including with mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs, are not sustained. Saraswati et al. aim to optimize MSCs and simultaneously augment their engraftment and potency in vascular recovery. If successful, these new techniques could be easily translated into clinical therapies for patients affected with CLI.

William Savage, MD, PhD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA
Aeroallergen-Specific Antibodies in Allergic Transfusion Reactions.

Allergic transfusion reactions, or ATRs, are noxious, immediate hypersensitivity reactions that cause patient suffering, increase costs and contribute to blood wastage. Savage and his colleagues’ previous work on such reactions to platelets indicates that aeroallergy, or hay fever, is a unique atopic risk factor. In this study, the researchers aim to broadly characterize the allergenic component of platelet lysate using basophil histamine release; identify anti-platelet antibody specificity through protein microarray profiling of plasma samples from subjects with recurrent ATRs; and validate antibody-antigen interactions for the top platelet protein candidate(s) identified in the microarray.

Application Submission Process

The NBF is now accepting 2016 scientific research grant applications. Grant applications are available on the NBF Web page (www.aabb.org/nbf), or by contacting the NBF at +1.301.215.6552 or nbf@aabb.org. Applications must be received by Dec. 31, 2015. Grant awards will be announced in June 2016 and funded in early July 2016.

About The National Blood Foundation

The National Blood Foundation (NBF), established in 1983, is a program of AABB that distributes funding to support research and education in all aspects of blood banking, transfusion medicine, cellular therapies and patient blood management. As a charitable foundation, the NBF raises money from AABB members — both institutional and individual — as well as corporations, foundations and others for the National Blood Foundation Research and Education Trust (NBFRET), a 509(a)(3) organization. Since its inception, the NBF has awarded more than $8 million to early career investigators through its Scientific Research Grants Program.

About AABB

AABB is an international, not-for-profit association representing individuals and institutions involved in transfusion medicine, cellular therapies and patient blood management. The association is committed to improving health by developing and delivering standards, accreditation and educational programs that focus on optimizing patient and donor care and safety. AABB membership consists of nearly 2,000 institutions and 8,000 individuals, including physicians, nurses, scientists, researchers, administrators, medical technologists and other health care providers. Members are located in more than 80 countries. For more information, visit www.aabb.org.

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