Heriot-Watt University is designing a new supply chain system for blood, tissue and cell therapy products across Scotland

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Heriot-Watt University is designing a new supply chain system for blood, tissue and cell therapy products across Scotland

An improved donor-to-patient supply chain for blood, tissue and cell therapy products across Scotland, is being developed through a new research project.

Academics from Heriot-Watt University and the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) are

developing the new system, in time for the opening of the new SNBTS National Centre at the Heriot-Watt Research Park in 2017.

Blood, tissues and cells donated throughout Scotland need to be safely transported to the new centre in Edinburgh, processed and then allocated to hospitals across the country for clinical use.

Ensuring availability of a viable supply of blood, tissue and cell therapy products in the face of uncertain and increasing demand, whilst meeting stringent quality, safety and compliance regulations, presents significant challenges within the NHS.

As well as ensuring the safety and traceability of product through the supply chain, the shelf life of products can be problematic, varying from many years, for frozen stem cells for example, to mere hours for some highly specialised cell therapies.

The teams from Heriot-Watt and SNBTS are designing a more efficient supply chain system able to tackle these challenges while reducing costs and improving the match between patient demand and donor supply.

The project will also look to improve the supply chain’s ability to respond and adapt to changes in demand so it can meet future requirements as new cell therapies are developed globally.

Speaking about the project, Dr Christine Rutherford, Associate Professor at Heriot-Watt University said, “The blood supply chain is a challenging problem, uniquely combining criteria including short shelf-life, temperature dependency, donor management and a complex donor-to patient network.

“Such a supply chain gives the potential for new knowledge creation in the areas of supply chain design and network resilience.

“The key challenge for us will be to develop new supply chain design principles that will be better suited to tackling a complex community supply problem very much dependent on donor actions.”

Professor Marc Turner, Medical Director of SNBTS said, “The SNBTS supply and inventory system must be flexible in order to respond to the changing demand for current blood products, as well as the expected increase in demand for new tissue and cell therapy products across the UK and Europe.

“The global use of blood products is forecast to grow due, in part, to a population with longer life expectancy and the subsequent demand on the health services. In the longer term, there will be a significant impact from the exponential increase in the use of cell therapy products in the treatment of patients worldwide that is predicted.

“In order to meet these demands an adaptive and efficient supply chain is vital.”

The project, which has received £103,130 Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) funding from Innovate UK, will run for three years.