MSM Research Grant Program awards new funds to research projects exploring blood donor eligibility

DECEMBER 3, 2018 (OTTAWA) – Canadian Blood Services is pleased to announce that four additional projects will be funded as part of a second round of support available through the MSM Research Grant Program. In this unique program, which is expected to help evolve the current eligibility criteria for men who have sex with men (MSM), research from a total of 15 projects will be combined to generate evidence and inform alternative screening approaches for blood and plasma donors. 

The MSM Research Grant Program is funded by a contribution from Health Canada and managed by Canadian Blood Services in partnership with Héma-Québec.

“The MSM research program is important because it brings teams from different research backgrounds together with the LGBTQ+ community. For us to keep the blood supply safe for patients, any change we make to donor eligibility criteria has to be supported by a body of evidence, and that’s part of what we expect to get from this newly funded research,” says Dr. Isra Levy, vice-president of medical affairs and innovation with Canadian Blood Services. 

Applications for the second round of funding began in April 2018, and funds were awarded in October following a formal review process involving national and international research experts. Three new projects were awarded as well as additional funding for an existing project.

The projects will investigate the feasibility of implementing source plasma donation with alternative screening approaches, mathematical modeling of the risk of transmission of viruses for various different strategies, and the impact and opportunities for changes to blood donation screening. Projects’ summaries are available on

“Over the coming years, these research projects are expected to deliver new information that may help identify low-risk donor groups and develop new approaches to screen those donors. The research has the potential to ensure a more inclusive donor screening process for the Canadian blood system,” says Dr. Marc Germain, vice-president, medical affairs and medical director of human tissues, Héma-Québec.

The new interdisciplinary projects bring together experts from the transfusion community with public and social health experts and engage collaborators from various stakeholder organizations. Several of the projects leverage existing studies but build on them in new and innovative ways to address the objectives of this Program. These unique collaborations are expected to generate new perspectives and insights about the eligibility criteria and screening process for blood and plasma donors.

Health Canada has made a $3M investment in the MSM Research Grant Program as a means of enabling Canada’s blood system operators to investigate behaviour-based blood donation policies. The funded projects will enable Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec to continue to build an appropriate body of evidence-based research on alternative screening approaches for blood donors and help inform decisions about current eligibility criteria.

Canadian Blood Services is dedicated to being as minimally restrictive as possible, while also maintaining the safety of the blood supply. As the donor screening and eligibility criteria for blood and plasma donation evolves, decisions must be based on scientific evidence, acceptable to patient groups, and submitted to Health Canada for approval.  
Learn more about the MSM eligibility criteria on

About Canadian Blood Services

Canadian Blood Services is a not-for-profit charitable organization. Regulated by Health Canada as a biologics manufacturer and primarily funded by the provincial and territorial ministries of health, Canadian Blood Services operates with a national scope, infrastructure and governance that make it unique within Canadian healthcare. In the domain of blood, plasma and stem cells, we provide services for patients on behalf of all provincial and territorial governments except Quebec. The national transplant registry for interprovincial organ sharing and related programs reaches into all provinces and territories, as a biological lifeline for Canadians.    

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