THE CABINET

Blood bank: Hemobanco

Pioneering a universal practice

Technical file

Geographical scope: Spain

Economical impact: High

Level of innovation: Adaptive

Patent: No

Interdisciplinary connections: -

During the Spanish Civil War, eminent hematologist Frederic Duran i Jordà created one of the world's first functioning blood banks.

The immediate motivation for establishing the Republican Blood Bank was to design a practical and effective way to provide blood transfusions for combatants involved in the fierce fighting on the Aragon front.

Having the right type of blood available for those that needed it was a priority. Prior to Duran i Jordà's work, suitable donors were notified when their blood type was needed. Instead, he instituted the now standard procedure of collecting blood, typing it, and storing it until required.

“In September 1945, Grifols opened the first private blood bank in Spain, and one of the first in Europe. The so-called Hemobanco experienced impressive growth from its inception, and became a key part of the Grifols project.”

Global benchmarks

The practices he established are now standard benchmarks around the world. But with the defeat of the Spanish Republic, he was forced into exile in the UK, where he worked for many years as a doctor.

His work was not in vain, however. In September 1945, Grifols opened the first private blood bank in Spain, and one of the first in Europe. The so-called Hemobanco experienced impressive growth from its inception, and became a key part of the Grifols project.

Building on a legacy of collaboration

The Grifols i Lucas brothers had previously worked with Duran i Jordà, and adopted many of his trailblazing practices. But their own contribution was also remarkable.

In 1946, Josep Antoni Grifols i Roig made a presentation to the Academia de Ciencias Médicas de Cataluña, lying down a series of standards for blood collection and storage. A central recommendation was that blood banks should be regulated by the State.

Other key recommendations dealt with lengthening the recommended time between donations to 90 days, prohibiting the mixture of donated blood samples, suitable compensation for donors, using three different tests to confirm the blood type of each sample, and standards for the conservation of blood and plasma.

Just five years later, the Grifols blood bank already had the first plasmapheresis center in the world, due to the key innovations of Dr. Josep Antoni Grifols i Lucas. The center was to register more than 1,300 regular blood donors, a very high figure for the time.

New therapies from plasma products

Thanks to its high standards, the Hemobanco grew slowly, and safely. At its most productive, it took Grifols over 20,000 extractions per year to supply Spanish hospitals with a range of plasma products, including lyophilized plasma, liquid pasteurized plasma and Plasmoid, among others.

Bibliography

  • Laboratorios Grifols, S.A. (1944). Servicio de preparación de plasma humano desecado en estado liófilo [Sales brochure]. Barcelona: Banco de Sangre y Plasma de Laboratorios Grifols, S.A.
  • Laboratorios Grifols. (1944). Equipo para la determinación de los grupos sanguíneos. [Sales brochure]. Barcelona: Hemobanco de Sangre y Plasma de Laboratorios Grifols, S.A.
  • Grifols-Roig, J.A. (1946). Algunas normas para el buen funcionamiento de los llamados Bancos o depósitos de sangre. Medicina Clínica, 2(6), 107-113.
  • Laboratorios Grifols, S.A. (1950). Nota de precios de las actividades de Laboratorios Grifols, S.A. [Sales brochure]. Barcelona: Hemobanco de Sangre y Plasma de Laboratorios Grifols, S.A.
  • Laboratorios Grifols, S.A. (1951). Banco de sangre y plasma de Laboratorios Grifols, S.A. [Sales brochure]. Barcelona: Hemobanco de Sangre y Plasma de Laboratorios Grifols, S.A.
  • Laboratorios Grifols, S.A. [ca. 1952]. Servicios del Hemobanco Grifols: tarifa de precios. [Sales brochure]. Barcelona: Hemobanco de Sangre y Plasma de Laboratorios Grifols, S.A.
  • Grifols-Lucas, V. (2009). Amb un suro i un cordill. Vivències d'un empresari de postguerra. Barcelona: Grupo Grifols, S.A.
  • Schmidt, P. J. (2012). The plasma wars: a history. Transfusion, 52, 2-4.
  • Avellà, R., & Miquel, B. (Eds.). (2015). Cuando un sueño se cumple. Crónica ilustrada de 75 años de Grifols. Barcelona: Grupo Grifols, S.A.