Red Cross R&D

Research for a Safe, Effective Blood Supply

Biomedical research and development (R&D) allows American Red Cross Biomedical Services to stay in the forefront of blood transfusion safety and technology.

Holland Labs - Lab TechnicianHoused in the Jerome H. Holland Laboratory for the Biomedical Sciences in Rocville, Maryland, the Red Cross biomedical R&D program investigates transfusion-transmissible infections and facilitates improvements in blood collection, processing, and provision. The program’s researchers include internationally respected experts in transfusion technology, transfusion-transmitted diseases, and blood component biology. Comprehensive knowledge of the transfusion field and strong relationships with industry partners enable the program’s scientists to assess new equipment and technologies and to investigate and recommend procedures to improve patient outcomes.

Key Contributions of Holland Labs

  • Developed a technique to freeze red blood cells, preserving their viability for up to 3 years, helping to ensure a steady supply of red cells for patients needing rare blood types. (1971)
  • Contributed to the development of bar-coding for blood products. (1977)
  • Developed procedures for large-scale purification of therapeutic blood proteins like gamma globulin and factor VIII. (1978)
  • Collaborated with scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to define the window period—the length of time between infection with the virus and the earliest stage in infection that can be detected by a test—for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) following implementation of universal HIV testing of donor blood. (1994)
  • Investigated the prevalence of blood-transmitted diseases like human T-lymphotropic virus-1 (HTLV-1) and Chagas disease, providing key data that led to implementation of testing for these diseases. (HTLV-1 in 1987, Chagas disease in 2008)
  • Continue to facilitate improvements in bacterial testing of blood products.
  • Investigated the role of antibodies in female-source plasma in causing transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI), leading to reduction in the incidence of TRALI by providing male-predominant plasma for transfusion. (2009)
  • Modified height and weight restrictions for donors younger than 19, which has significantly reduced adverse reactions among young donors. (2009)

History of Red Cross R&D

The Red Cross national research program was established in 1961 and expanded in 1987 with the founding of the Holland Laboratory. Throughout its history, the R&D program has made significant contributions to blood component technology, blood safety, plasma-derived therapeutics, transfusion medicine, and biomedical science. Roger Y. Dodd, PhD, is the Vice President for American Red Cross Research and Development and Director of the Holland Laboratory. The research and development program comprises two departments: Transmissible Diseases and Blood Components.