It’s every dedicated blood donor’s worst nightmare: you’ve just given a pint from your own veins and, for some unforeseen reason, it can’t be transfused. Maybe you needed to stop the donation early or your apheresis platelets clumped more than expected.
Might as well just dump the whole bag down the drain, right? (Well, not literally: even the safest blood is a biohazard!)
Not if Colleen Lammers and her team have anything to do with it.
As manager of Biological Products in Renton, Colleen runs Bloodworks’ Remnant Program.
“Remnant products are pieces of a donation process or the production of our components that are remnant after we have made, for example, donor testing samples,” she explained.
Colleen and her department make sure that every donation is used to its fullest, even if it can’t be given to a patient in need.
The Remnant Program allows Bloodworks to repurpose byproducts of blood donation, such as samples taken for testing and the filters used to reduce white cells before transfusion, and utilize donations that otherwise might be discarded: outdated red cells, clumped platelets, and units with antibodies that make them difficult to transfuse.
Clients range from researchers and reagent vendors to police and government agencies and are located all over the world, from locally to places like Germany, Scotland, and Singapore.
Products created using remnant samples range from test kits to reagents to assays, and many of these come back to help our own processes: some of these vendors create the kits that we need for our own donors and patients, and any additional testing done at a vendor’s request goes into our system.
Other clients use remnant blood to calibrate tools and instruments, even when that tool is just a nose.
“Another thing that we’ve done in the past, which helps the community, is sell blood to search dog trainers,” Colleen added. “They use that blood to train their dogs for the scent of human blood so they can go out and find maybe an injured hiker or maybe someone that was in a crime that is now bleeding.”
And so that was a really cool thing that we did a few years ago: get together with a search dog trainer. And he actually came and did a demonstration for us, and we got to see the dog in in action.”
The Remnant Program requires collaboration from a number of teams within Bloodworks: donor testing, product manufacturing, scheduling, transportation, and more.
In addition to providing local scientists with the material they need to conduct discovery research, revenue from the remnant program funds Bloodworks’ own lifesaving blood research.
“I don’t feel like I’m just Biological products,” Colleen said. “I work for Bloodworks as a whole.”
After graduating from college with a biology degree and working at another blood center, Colleen joined Bloodworks in 1990 in our Donor Testing department.
“I moved up in Donor Testing and became a specialist and started working on clinical trials with some of the vendors,” she said. “and that kind of morphed into, ‘well, let’s, let’s draw some donors for our vendors.’ And now that’s morphed into, ‘let’s sell some of these different products.’”
“We are respecting each donor to the best of our ability and utilizing all the products that they have spent all their time and effort and lifeblood to give. It’s really fun coming in and finding ways to utilize these different products in different ways and having many, many different customers.”