Interview with CEO of the San Diego Blood Bank

January 28, 2020
By: Audra Nunnink - Director of Brand & Communications

January is a time for us all to roll up our sleeves (literally), and help the Blood Bank replenish their depleting supplies. With people on vacation, holiday closures, and the cold and flu season in full force, it becomes challenging to maintain a healthy supply of blood. The demand for blood certainly doesn’t go away during this time of year, but the donations tend to go down, and there is currently a critical shortage.

At Truvian, blood is at the core of our company, and we understand its importance. To help amplify the significance of this life giving, and saving, fundamental, I sat down with David Wellis, Ph.D. As CEO of the San Diego Blood Bank, he is not just keeping blood supplies flowing to hospitals throughout Southern California, but also expanding SDBB’s reach, and solidified its place as trusted partner and integral part of the pharmaceutical and biotech industries.

1. Talk to me about the foundation of the SDBB, as well as the expanded mission in the last few years.

“We’ve had the same mission since 1950; saving lives with quality blood services in partnership with the community. But what people don’t realize is that this actually encompasses both health AND wellness because we don’t just provide blood for emergency situations, surgeries and medical treatments, but with permission from our donors, for research as well. We wanted to continue to expand on this and give back to the future health of the community, and have become more involved in research and clinical trials.”

2. On that note, SDBB is a key partner in the NIH All of Us Research Program, an effort like none other, to gather data from one million+ people throughout the United States to accelerate research and improve health. Being that you sit on the Executive Committee, are you able to share details on this historic program, and other surrounding initiatives you’re working on?

“We’re the only site in the country that registers both direct volunteers, through Dr. Eric Topol’s grant at Scripps, and also collects through a healthcare provider organization, University of California, San Diego. We’ve been educating, recruiting and registering donors in the national study to create more momentum for precision medicine. It’s an amazing project with over 300,000 people signed up to date.

Our view is that blood bank can take a role in the future of precision medicine in two ways, one of which is population scale studies. We’ve been working with others, which will be announced at a later date, to create populations that can serve as research resources. Secondly, we’ve put a lot of effort towards cell therapy. We’ve had an umbilical cord blood bank for 15 years, which has provided for some of the first cell therapies – that cord blood is transplanted in to people with blood cancers who have had their bone marrow, essentially, zapped out. We realized, why can’t we leverage this platform to engage in the variety of other cell therapies being developed? With that, we are now a cGMP manufacturer of clinical materials for cell therapy clinical trials.”

3. You clearly have high aspirations for SDBB, and have taken the organization leaps and bounds beyond that of what most people would consider the purview of a blood bank. What are you ultimately striving for?

“We already have tremendous impact on the community right now, saving thousands of lives with blood products, but if we can save even more lives through genetics and through cell therapy, that’s even better, and that’s what we’re working towards every day.”

Click here if you or your company would like to host a blood drive.

For more information, or to sign up for the All of Us Research Program, please visit their website.

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