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New research grants for the development of cancer and transplant treatment

9/22/2021 10:00

The Finnish Red Cross Blood Service (FRCBS) has awarded the first grants from its new research fund. The funded studies are in areas such as treatments for people with cancer and transplant patients.

The 2021 grants will be awarded to nine research projects on cell therapy, extracellular membrane blisters and transplant research. All of the funded projects will be carried out external to the Blood Service, at universities or hospitals. A total of EUR 495,000 in research grants will be awarded. 

Four of the first grants from the Research Fund relate to the research and development of cell therapies. “The Blood Service already has a long research history and a strong knowledge base in new cell preparations for living cells. To date, for example, 82 Finnish patients have been treated with a product developed by the Blood Service that utilises mesenchymal stem cells”, says Jukka Partanen, Research Director at the Blood Service. 

Three of the four largest grants now awarded relate to cell therapy. A University of Tampere project, led by Professor Dario Greco, is developing a research platform that combines the processing of therapeutic cells and the therapeutic possibilities of the extracellular membrane blisters they produce. 

Led by Professors Päivi Ojala and Sirpa Leppä, the project ran by the University of Helsinki and the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS) is examining the effects of the blood’s ‘killer cells’, or T-cells, in the cells of patients with cancer. A University of Helsinki project led by Professor Vincenzo Cerullo is developing a T-cell-based therapy using tissue-type-matched tissue cultures.

The core activities of the Blood Service include the production of red blood cell and platelet preparations, which are used in the treatment of surgical, cancer, and emergency care patients. The Blood Service is looking for new possibilities to use blood cells, and especially the extracellular blister cells produced by these cells. The four funded research projects will support research in this new area, with two grants being awarded to young doctoral researchers. 

The Blood Service is also responsible for tissue compatibility tests for all organ and stem cell transplants in Finland. The Blood Service is currently conducting genomic and data-based, machine learning research to find new tissue compatibility factors and predict the broadest possible tissue compatibility. One of the largest grants now awarded is that secured by a multidisciplinary project at HUS led by Docent Ilkka Helanterä, which aims to improve the treatment outcomes of kidney transplants. 

“The Blood Service’s operations require extensive and interdisciplinary expertise. That’s why it’s important for us to be able to support research related to our activities that it is not appropriate or possible for us to carry out ourselves. With the help of the Research Fund, we will promote the development of our sector well into the future”, says Pia Westman, Director of the Finnish Blood Service.

The Blood Service Research Fund grant is intended for scientific projects that support the areas of the Blood Service’s research strategy: the effectiveness of the blood supply chain (blood donation, blood product production, blood transfusion to patients), new cell therapy treatments and the development of tissue transplants. The Board of the Finnish Red Cross decides annually on the use of the fund’s grants, and the Blood Service Board decides on the award of grants on the basis of a proposal from the Evaluation Committee. More information: