In the early 1950s, Dr. Josep Antoni Grífols i Lucas perfected and systematized the technique of plasmapheresis. This technique was a revolutionary innovation for Grifols and paved the way for an entire industry of blood plasma-based medicines, which the company now dominates.
Plasmapheresis consists of reintroducing blood cells and platelets back into the donor's body immediately after a donation of whole blood, retaining the blood plasma. It's a highly significant innovation, because a donor can regenerate plasma far quicker than they can whole blood. Therefore, they can make much more frequent donations: in fact, one plasma donation is possible per week compared to a full blood donation once every 12 weeks. As a result, the collection of far greater quantities of raw plasma is suddenly possible.
Origins of an idea
The technique was originally proposed by John Jacob Abel in 1914, who showed, together with his team, that large amounts of plasma could be extracted periodically from dogs as long as the red blood cells were reinfused. They named the process plasmapheresis.
During the Second World War, some researchers applied the technique to small groups of human subjects for the first time, with Frank Co Tui's work in 1944 being particularly significant.
Josep Antoni Grífols i Lucas carried out the largest study to date of its effects in the medium term in the human body. With more than 350 donors in the study, he rigorously and systematically established the safety of plasmapheresis in humans for the first time.
A legacy of life
Dr. Grífols' studies confirmed that the technique could be used to gather vastly more plasma than had been possible before, without any real risk to donors. He presented the conclusions of his study at the IV International Congress of Transfusion Physicians in Lisbon, 1951, and a year later they were published in the British Medical Journal, offering the scientific community a technique that continues to be the most widespread method for obtaining plasma for the industrial fractionation process until the present day.
Plasmapheresis represented the genesis of plasma fractionation industry