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Saving Lives Behind the Scenes: Vitalant's Laboratory Teams and Their Impact

April 14-20, 2024, marks Medical Laboratory Professionals week

Fulfilling Vitalant’s lifesaving mission is a team effort, and much of the work happens behind the scenes in laboratories across the country. April 14-20 marks Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, and to celebrate the occasion and the contributions of Vitalant’s amazing team members, we’re highlighting each of our labs and the ways they help save patients' lives.  

Cellular Therapy Lab 

Located in Tempe, Arizona 

The Cellular Therapy Lab supports 11 bone marrow and stem cell transplant and biotherapy programs across Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas. After an appropriate donor is identified, the lab processes, preserves, stores and distributes products collected specifically for an individual patient.  

The Cellular Therapy Lab also supports CAR-T therapies – cutting-edge biotherapy products that can treat graft-versus-host disease, a possible significant side effect of bone marrow or stem cell transplant where the donated cells see the body as foreign, as well as certain blood and solid-tumor cancers. The lab also supports transplant center clients with storage and distribution of new therapies and clinical trials.  

Coagulation Lab 

Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

The Coagulation Lab provides and develops tests to assist in the diagnosis of patients with bleeding and clotting disorders. The results supplied by this team help determine a diagnosis, and the team’s consultative services assist physicians with appropriate patient management.  

Beyond serving patients and working directly with physicians, this lab also partners with independent researchers, pharmaceutical trials and device manufacturers pursuing U.S. Food and Drug Administration approvals.  

Component Manufacturing and Product Testing Lab

Located at 17 locations across the country

The Component Manufacturing and Product Testing Lab teams processes donations into transfusable blood components, facilitates donor testing to allow for products to be distributed to hospitals and ensures product quality through testing. 
The team's commitment to quality - demonstrated by following good manufacturing practices and adhering to all regulatory requirements - ensures all blood products maintain high standards for patient safety. Their success requires them to adapt to emerging products and processes while maintaining their focus on providing the highest-quality processing and testing. 

Cord Blood Lab 

Located in Allendale, New Jersey 

The Cord Blood Lab provides access to transplantable stem cells derived from cord blood, which are used to treat certain cancers, including those that impact blood, marrow and lymph nodes. Cord blood transplants have saved lives by providing transferrable cells when other treatments have failed or needed supplementation.  

Vitalant’s Cord Blood Lab was the nation’s first hybrid lab providing both public and private cord blood access. Public cord blood is used for matched recipient transplants, while private collection, processing and storage provides parents the opportunity to store cells and tissue at childbirth, which may be needed later for the child or a sibling.  

Donor and Hospital Support 

Team members located across the country 

The Donor and Hospital Support team provides consistent, expert and effective communication regarding donor and product management to team members, donors and customers.  

This team plays a vital role in ensuring blood products reach patients in need by providing an added level of eligibility review of donor collection forms, evaluating products based on donor-provided post-donation information and infectious disease testing, tracking adverse donor reactions, and assessing reinstatement requests for previously deferred donors, among other responsibilities. 

Hospital Services 

Located in all Vitalant regions 

The Hospital Services team partners with labs throughout Vitalant to ensure blood products are delivered to hospital customers in an efficient and effective way, along with supporting regulatory processes, such as product labeling.  

This team often faces real-time challenges such as inventory shortages, mass-casualty events, traumatic situations and weather, which can either increase the need for blood product or impact delivery.  

Human Leukocyte Antigens Lab 

Located in Phoenix, Arizona; Sacramento, California; and Spokane, Washington 

The Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA) Lab supports solid organ (kidney, lung, and heart), bone marrow and stem cell transplant programs. HLA testing for a patient needing a lifesaving transplant is the vital step to identifying a potential bone marrow, stem cell, or solid organ donor. In addition to determining a patient’s HLA and antibody profile, genotyping multiple potential donors may be needed to find an immunologically suitable match.  

A bone marrow or stem cell transplant can be a successful treatment for many types of leukemia or blood disorders, but patient and donor testing are very time-sensitive, as a patient may have a small window of time when the transplant will be most effective. Similarly, solid organ transplant is a life saving treatment with more than 100,000 people currently on the wait list. 

In addition to supporting multiple transplant programs, the HLA Lab also supports Vitalant’s blood services team with identifying possible HLA-matched platelet donors and managing the associated database. 

Medical Affairs 

Located in all Vitalant regions 

As part of Vitalant’s Medical Affairs team, physicians and laboratory directors provide medical oversight for all aspects of patient and donor testing and processing laboratories. They provide feedback and recommendations on policies, consult with staff and hospitals around the clock, and engage in discussions about individual patient needs.  

Processing and control labs make sure that blood from donors is made into usable products that can be delivered to hospitals. Medical directors provide oversight and support for these processes and may be involved with patients requiring specially prepared blood components.  

Reference Lab and Transfusion Services 

Located in 18 Vitalant locations across the nation 

Reference Lab and Transfusion Services (RLTS) acts as the connector between blood products and patients. This team performs testing on patient blood samples to identify antibodies the patient may have developed due to pregnancy or previous transfusion, in order to identify and issue blood products that will save or help improve their lives.  

The RLTS team has the unique opportunity to serve various transfusion settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, air and land ambulances, rehab facilities and more. The ability to provide blood products immediately during trauma or at a location where the patient resides directly improves patient outcomes.  

Additionally, this team participates in cutting-edge clinical trials to support the advancement of existing and new treatments. 

Vitalant Innovation Center 

Located in Denver, Colorado 

Officially opened in 2023, the Vitalant Innovation Center focuses on translational research to move scientific data and discoveries directly into practice. The Innovation Center supports Vitalant operations by piloting new technologies and processes, providing a sandbox to advance new developments and bring new products to Vitalant and the blood and biotherapies industry.  

Using equipment standard to the blood services industry alongside specialized equipment for advanced testing, the Innovation Center team’s advancements contribute to a safe and sustainable blood supply and provide new blood products and biotherapies for patients in need.  

Vitalant Research Institute 

Located in San Francisco, California, and Denver, Colorado 

Founded in 1958, the Vitalant Research Institute has been at the forefront of research discoveries and scientific advances for the past 65 years. The Research Institute is dedicated to advancing blood safety worldwide through scientific research, education and the promotion of evidence-based policies. With teams working in a variety of labs, the Institute emphasizes exploring mechanisms underlying infectious and immunological complications of transfusions, as well as the prevention of these complications. 

The premier transfusion medicine research institution in the United States, the Vitalant Research Institute contributes to and engages with other Vitalant divisions in research, policy development and application of new practices and technologies. In addition, the Institute is actively engaged with a variety of nationally and globally recognized organizations, research associations and other blood centers, ultimately providing better outcomes for patients in need. 

Last year, the Research Institute team played a critical role in the ADVANCE Study, which contributed to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s updated guidance on individual donor assessment and eligibility in relation to HIV risk.