Freeze-dried blood serum from the 1940s gives hope to researchers of today

Kanwal Singh from Defence Research and Development Canada helped Dr. Beckett take freeze-dried plasma from 1943, which this empty bottle once contained, and see how well it had held up over time. [Photo: SAMMY KOGAN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL]

Club member Christopher Rutty is featured in this fascinating story that appears in today’s Globe & Mail. Dr Rutty is resident historian and manager of the Sanofi Toronto archives where an 80-year old bottle in a museum display-case provided striking evidence of the value of freeze-dried blood serum.

Dr Andrew Beckett, director of trauma at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, has had a career-long quest to improve Canada’s preparedness for treating the wounded. In studying the history of Canada’s production of freeze-dried serum, a project led during World War II by Charles Best, Beckett discovered a bottle of the original blood product at Sanofi. Together with Kanwal Singh from Defence Research and Development Canada, Beckett reconstituted the freeze-dried plasma from 1943 and found that it still contained most of the constituents of fresh serum.

To learn more about the Connaught Laboratories’ wartime work, read Chris Rutty’s article, “World War II & Biotech Innovations,” part of his series of articles on the history of the Connaught Medical Research Laboratories.

Dr Andrew Beckett, St Michael’s Hospital. Beckett set out to learn about the blood serum Canada made in the Second World War to see how it could improve transfusion medicine today. [Photo: SAMMY KOGAN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL]