IIAM Celebrates Our 30th Anniversary
IIAM’s 30th anniversary was a time to reflect over past milestones and achievements, as well as a time to reaffirm our commitment to being partners in new, cutting-edge developments.
In 1986, when IIAM began, very few types of transplants were successful and routine, and the value of medical research for medical institutions and donor families using non-transplantable organs was vastly underestimated. In these 30+ years, along with our OPO and research partners — the two cogs that drive IIAM forward — we have helped change thousands of lives.
Since 2001, when IIAM implemented an electronic data collection system, we have screened approximately 250,000 referrals — of which an average of 15,000 organs and tissues for research were provided to over 200 different researchers and studies. Gina Dunne Smith, Executive Director of IIAM, said, “Looking back, nearly every aspect of our organization and our field has evolved.”
Much of our progress is the result of dramatic advancements in medical research: surgeons perfecting the most difficult procedures; improved immunosuppression to prevent organ rejection; new preservation solutions and devices to allow more organs to be placed with patients at longer distances; and making previously rejected organs suitable for transplant by repairing acutely injured cells. “Despite this, we continue to face a shortage of suitable donors to meet the demand of a transplant waiting list that has grown to nearly 120,000.”
In 2007, IIAM introduced semiannual Research Recovery Workshops, training surgical and perfusion technicians to optimally recover non-transplantable organs for medical research. These workshops are regularly attended by representatives of our OPO partners, who have seen the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services expand its benchmarks to include organs placed for medical research. OPOs now rely on IIAM’s research placements to meet their business needs along with their desire to fully honor the donors’ gifts.
Through our Neonatal Donor Program, established in 2012, IIAM has been at the forefront of this trailblazing initiative, which is giving peace of mind to bereaved parents and opening new avenues of study for medical researchers.
More recently, our research partnerships have delved into the spectacular world of regenerative medicine and tissue engineering, where a recipient’s cells take the place of donor cells from a previously rejected organ — making the organ not only transplantable, but more likely to prevent rejection. Research on stem cells derived from donor skin can teach researchers how to reassign cells to create an organ, repair the cells that cannot heal on their own, and enable deteriorating organs to regenerate.
“Today, we’re at a great place, with an important role to play in new discoveries that will not only save people’s lives, but also vastly improve the quality of their lives,” said Smith. “There’s no end in sight to the changes and breakthroughs on the horizon; as long as there’s a vision, we intend to be both a leader and a partner.”
From Our Partners
IIAM is proud of our long-time partnerships with dedicated OPOs and visionary researchers who have successfully advanced our field. Here’s what they had to say on the occasion of IIAM’s 30th anniversary:
“The donations made at tragic times in the lives of the families are invaluable to humanity. Through contributions to medical sciences, we may learn more about our own biology and lives may be saved.”
“Research donation allows us to give a family one final option when transplantation cannot occur. When families or donors choose research, they are not only helping one person with that organ, they could be helping millions. Millions of people are dependent on medical research to develop a new medication or cure for an affliction. Without the generosity of donors and their families who donate organs for research, medical science cannot progress. I have known many donor families that, although transplant was their first hope, they found tremendous pride in knowing their hero may have made such an enormous impact on medical science. It truly is an ultimate gift.”
Dorrie Dils, CEO, Gift of Life Michigan, an IIAM recovery partner
“CORE is happy to have been a partner with IIAM since the beginning. The collaboration between our organizations has resulted in numerous advancements in the areas of improving transplantation, understanding of reproductive disorders, early lung development and other pulmonary illnesses, neurological diseases, diabetes & cardiovascular diseases. All of this wonderful work, however, would not have been possible without the generosity of our donor families. One simple word — YES — allows us to provide another layer of comfort to those grieving the loss of their loved ones.”
Susan Stuart, President & CEO, Center for Organ Recovery and Education, an IIAM recovery partner
“Adverse drug effects — from pharmaceuticals for treatment of disease or alleviation of symptoms — may cause serious harm, and are a major societal problem. Most of these adverse effects are unique to humans and cannot be detected in laboratory animals. Because of our research using human tissues from IIAM, we have developed experimental approaches to detect human-specific adverse drug effects. These approaches are now part of FDA regulations and are used by pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs with improved safety profiles. We thank IIAM for our continued collaboration.”
“On behalf of our company, the medical transplant community and transplant patients worldwide, I would like to thank you for your role in advancing the preservation of organs for transplantation. IIAM’s delivery of hearts, lungs and livers has been instrumental to our developing new technology for the preservation, monitoring, recovery and transport of hearts, lungs and livers using revolutionary warm blood perfusion instead of cold storage. With this new technology, every use is saving a life by giving patients a life-giving organ that they desperately need. Thank you for your partnership with us and especially to those donor families who make it all possible.”
“Over a number of years, a wide variety of excellent quality human tissue samples from over 300 individuals have been kindly donated to us with international research consent. Provided through IIAM, these human tissues have been and continue to be used in our laboratories in the UK to generate valuable information that aids the development of new drug therapies for conditions such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, migraine and asthma; and provides drug safety data to support the approval of testing in clinical trials. We’d like to thank all of the donors and donor families who helped us make important small steps in the search for more effective drugs.”