For Immediate Release

December 11, 2018

Media Contact

AABB Communications
Magda Yang

National Blood Foundation Awards 2018 Early-Career Grants to Seven Researchers

Bethesda, Md. — AABB’s National Blood Foundation (NBF) announced today that it has awarded 2018 early-career scientific research grants to seven recipients: Arunoday K. Bhan, PhD; Vijay G. Bhoj, MD, PhD; Avital Mendelson, PhD; Antonella Nai, PhD, MSc, BSc; Robert S. Nickel, MD, MSc; Hideyuki Oguro, PhD, MSc, BSc; and Moritz Stolla, MD, PhD.

The seven recipients will each receive a grant of up to $75,000 to further a one- or two-year research project. These are the latest researchers to receive funding from the NBF, which has promoted early-career research in the fields of transfusion medicine and cellular therapies for more than three decades.

“Since 1985, the NBF has awarded over $9 million in grants to more than 200 early-career researchers through its Scientific Research Grants Program,” said Jeanne Hendrickson, MD, chair of the NBF Grants Review Committee. “Future medical breakthroughs depend on the innovative research of today. NBF grants are instrumental in providing support to these researchers at critical junctures in their careers, for exploration of cutting-edge topics to advance transfusion medicine and cellular therapies.”

The topics and scopes of this year’s recipients’ research are summarized below:

Arunoday K. Bhan, PhD
Boston Children’s Hospital
Boston, MA

Project Title: "Identifying megakaryocyte maturation pathways critical for platelet generation"

Summary of Proposed Research:
Immortalized hiPSC-derived MK progenitor cell lines (imMKCLs) can expand and produce platelets (plts) possess clinical plt production potential. However, it is functionally and phenotypically heterogeneous that limits its capability to generate plts. The proposed project would not only delineate maturation specific signaling pathways and associated genes that govern endomitosis and trigger plt release but also would generate a 2nd generation imMKCLs with better functionality and HLA I null plts.

Vijay G. Bhoj, MD, PhD
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA
Project Title: "Dissecting the Humoral Response to FVIII for Therapeutic Applications"

Summary of Proposed Research:
Patients with Hemophilia A (HA), caused by a genetic deficiency of coagulation factor VIII (FVIII), suffer from life-threatening bleeding. Following FVIII replacement, the optimal treatment, 30% of patients develop anti-FVIII antibodies, which nullifies the therapy. This proposal is centered on (1) understanding fundamental features of the antibody response to FVIII in patients and (2) evaluating novel therapies aimed at eradicating such antibodies.

Avital Mendelson, PhD
New York Blood Center
New York, NY

Project Title: "A biomimetic niche for platelet formation in vitro"

Summary of Proposed Research: Platelet transfusion can be life-saving for patients with severe thrombocytopenia but clinical demands are difficult to meet due to insufficient donor sources and limited shelf life. The development of new methods to promote platelet formation ex-vivo could significantly impact the prognosis of patients with blood disorders. Our goal is to develop a novel artificial niche that harbors the innate ability of co-existing niche cells and applied fluidic forces to promote platelet formation in vitro.

Antonella Nai, PhD, MSc, BSc
San Raffaele Scientific Institute
Milan, Italy

Project Title: "Targeting the second transferrin receptor for amelioration of severe malarial anemia"

Summary of Proposed Research: Our project is aimed at establishing the role of TFR2 on erythroid precursors in a murine model of malaria, in order to provide a new potential therapeutic intervention.

Robert S. Nickel, MD, MSc
Children's Research Institute
Washington, DC

Project Title: “Hydroxyurea and Transfusion (HAT): Pilot Study of Combination Therapy for Patients with Sickle Cell Anemia”

Summary of Proposed Research: Chronic red cell transfusions decrease stroke in sickle cell anemia (SCA) but may fail to prevent worsening cerebrovascular disease. Hydroxyurea, a disease-modifying medication for SCA, is not traditionally used with chronic transfusion. Combination hydroxyurea and transfusion may provide clinical benefits and decrease transfusion needs. We plan to investigate the feasibility, safety, and effect on transfusion requirements of combining hydroxyurea with simple chronic transfusion in SCA.

Hideyuki Oguro, PhD, MSc, BSc
The Jackson Laboratory
Farmington, CT

Project Title: "Induction of hematopoietic stem cell proliferation and mobilization by estrogen receptor signaling"

Summary of Proposed Research:
The demand for donor HSCs outreaches the supply in clinical transplantation. We have shown that treating mice with different estrogen receptor α (ERα) ligands induced HSC proliferation and mobilization. Here we propose to determine the impact of ERα ligands on improving mobilized HSC collection and regeneration after transplantation. We also seek to identify target genes of ERα that regulates HSC function. This study is anticipated to develop improved strategies for clinical HSC transplantation.

Moritz Stolla, MD, PhD
Bloodworks Northwest Research Institute
University of Washington School of Medicine
Swedish Medical Center
Seattle, WA

Project Title: "Cold-stored Platelets for the Reversal of Dual Antiplatelet Therapy"

Summary of Proposed Research: Cold-stored platelet (CSP, 4ºC) transfusions are approved by the FDA for the management of actively bleeding patients, but CSP transfusions have never been investigated for the reversal of dual antiplatelet therapy (DAPT). We propose to conduct a study in healthy human subjects receiving DAPT to test if autologous CSP transfusions are more effective than autologous room temperature-stored transfusions. We will assess platelet activation tests before, and serially after transfusion.

More information about the Early-Career Scientific Research Grants Program is available on the NBF web page (

About The National Blood Foundation

AABB’s National Blood Foundation (NBF), established in 1983, serves the fields of transfusion medicine and cellular therapies through grant making, educational offerings and industry leadership engagement and recognition.

About AABB

AABB is an international, not-for-profit association representing individuals and institutions involved in the fields of transfusion medicine and biotherapies. The association is committed to improving health through the development and delivery of standards, accreditation and educational programs that focus on optimizing patient and donor care and safety. AABB membership includes physicians, nurses, scientists, researchers, administrators, medical technologists and other health care providers. AABB members are located in more than 80 countries and AABB accredits institutions in more than 50 countries.