15 June 2021

Professor Erica Wood is head of the Transfusion Unit at Monash University. Her research describes how blood is used in Australia, and how its use can be improved and made safer and more cost-effective. Through registry data and clinical trials, and studies of novel blood products, Professor Wood and her team aim to improve access and transfusion outcomes for patients.

Professor Wood received a very new and special award at NHMRC’s recent Research Excellence Awards.

'I was awarded the inaugural Fiona Stanley Prize, which was presented by Professor Stanley herself – an experience I’ll never forget,' Professor Wood said.

'It was an honour to meet her and it means a lot to our team that our ideas and contributions have been recognised for excellence in this way at a national level.'

Professor Wood and her multidisciplinary team of leading Australian and international investigators will develop new models of blood supply and clinical demand, new decision support tools to guide practice, and investigate how best to provide feedback on transfusion practice. 

29,000 blood donations are collected each week in Australia to help patients across a wide range of medical conditions, including in cancer care, obstetrics, surgery and trauma Australian Red Cross Lifeblood

Blood transfusion is an essential part of modern healthcare. However, it carries risks and costs $1.2 billion annually for Australia in product costs alone.

Comprehensive health economics analyses will form part of the research and provide important new data to inform policy and practice.

'We are using clinical registries and based on recent successful pilot work, we will develop Australia's first national transfusion dataset,' said Professor Wood.

'We are conducting interventional trials of new blood products, as well as other therapies which may reduce the need for transfusions.'

The evidence for how blood is used, and knowledge of the outcomes for transfused patients, remains weak in many areas.

Important evidence gaps exist in the management of major haemorrhage, and transfusion support for patients with blood cancers and critically ill patients in intensive care, as well as in the efficient and effective use of immunoglobulins (made from donated plasma) to prevent or treat infection.

Professor Wood and team
Photo supplied by: Professor Erica Wood

'We know that there are many evidence gaps which need to be addressed to improve transfusion practice and clinical outcomes.'

'Our research is organised into two streams: one to address evidence gaps in patient blood management (focussed on patients with major haemorrhage, critical bleeding, haematologic disorders and critical care), and one focussed on understanding and improving the use of immunoglobulin therapy,' said Professor Wood.

'We will conduct a number of clinical trials (of new transfusion approaches, and new agents), as well as observational studies and analyses of major datasets, and we will build new models and decision support tools to guide practice.

'Support from the NHMRC emphasises that this work is so important to the community.'

The funding will provide Professor Wood and her team with unique opportunities to conduct this program of innovative research, and to develop Australia’s transfusion research capacity for the future. It will also drive efficiencies through reducing unnecessary transfusions and looking for more effective alternative therapies.