Cangene Plasma Centre opens on U of M campus

Cangene Plasma Resources Winnipeg, also known as the Rh Plasma Centre, recently celebrated the grand opening of its new location at University of Manitoba, on Innovation Drive.

Cangene, founded in 1984, with its headquarters located in Winnipeg, is a developer and manufacturer of immune therapeutics, focusing primarily on fighting infectious diseases such as hepatitis B, botulism and anthrax.

Their research at the centre furthers the work of Dr. Jack Bowman, medical director of the Winnipeg Rh Institute in 1969 who received the Canadian Medical Association’s FNG Starr award for his research and work in treating this disease.

According to a recent Cangene press release, “Plasma is the clear, straw-coloured liquid component of blood and consists of water, salts (electrolytes) and proteins. [ . . . ] Donating plasma is similar to donating blood, but can be more frequent. Human plasma, the fluid component of blood [ . . . ] is used to create plasma protein therapies that are used to treat a range of diseases and disorders.”

While Canadian Blood Services takes whole blood and transfuses it directly to patients and also divides it into a series of components including plasma, donating plasma at the centre is different, according to Bill Bees, senior vice president of operations at the Plasma Centre.

“We actually don’t collect the cellular part of the blood or whole blood. [ . . . ] We separate out the liquid part of the blood from the cellular part of the blood and give you back those cells. The cells get infused back into your body and [ . . . ] we can take the liquid part and make that into the drugs that we produce.”

Cangene donors help to produce products such as WinRho SDF, which helps treat mothers infected with RH disease. RH disease occurs when a mother is Rh negative and her baby is Rh positive, resulting in the mother creating antibodies that harm the Rhesus D antigen on the red blood cells of her foetus.

Bees said, “Dr. Bowman was a key medical researcher that wanted to come up with a better way to treat RH disease. [ . . . ] We [ . . . ] continue to do that program today where we have the ability collect plasma from people that have antibodies against the RH antigen on red cells. That’s a key program that we’ve been doing for years.”

Raymonde Marius, who has been a donor with Cangene for over 40 years said, “It’s for a good cause [ . . . ]. I had lost two babies to this dreadful disease and so I feel fortunate now that I can help other people.”

Marius has visited the new centre several times, including their grand opening on March 4, where she was presented with a plaque to honour her 40 years of donating.

Bees said, “We’re extremely proud of the heritage that we have through Dr. Bowman and his early work. [ . . . ]We’re really proud of this new centre. It’s state of the art. We’re happy to show it, not just the people at the University of Manitoba, but all over Winnipeg.”

In a press release, Cheryl Lawson, centre manager, said, “We are also looking forward to our new and expanded facility being able to accommodate more plasma donors from the surrounding Winnipeg community.”

Marius said, “Anybody that would be able to go to that program, I would encourage them a lot because I’ve been going there for 40 years and it didn’t kill me [laughs]. If I can save lives, why not? I’d do it again. [ . . . ] I keep on going.”

Bees said, “We think that the university population is a good healthy donor base that we can draw upon for our programs.”