Time for new blood
Case team is part of an historic effort to create the world’s first artificial blood.
Anirban Sen Gupta, a professor of biomedical engineering, has spent much of his career seeking a substitute for whole blood, which is always in short supply. Suddenly, his quest looks a lot more attainable.
Sen Gupta’s lab at the Case School of Engineering will play a key role in a $46 million federally funded project to develop artificial blood. The DefenseAdvanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) agreed to fund the four-year effort, which is being led by the University of Maryland School of Medicine and involves multiple academic institutions and industry partners.
Sen Gupta, one of the nation’s leading blood researchers, says the project could achieve an historic first as it revolutionizes approaches to emergency care.
“That’s why this is exciting. This kind of effort has never happened before,” he said. “This DARPA funding enables us to really push the envelope and try to get to the point of a fully artificial blood system, hopefully in four years.”
Sen Gupta is the Leonard Case Professor of Engineering, as well as the Wallace R. Persons ’31 Professor of Sensor Technology.
In researching blood, he works at the intersection of biomedical engineering and materials science. The body’s circulation system is an engineering marvel, he notes, and blood is a tissue that badly needs to be duplicated. Each year, millions of people worldwide die from lack of blood, which requires donors, spoils quickly, and often never makes it to the scene of a trauma.
Finding a blood substitute became his passion soon after he joined Case as a researcher in 2003. Sen Gupta helped design and patent artificial blood platelets — to stop bleeding — and launched a startup, Haima Therapeutics, to develop blood therapies.
Now he’ll lead the Case team on the DARPA project and a four-year sprint to a product. Sen Gupta envisions a powder that can be freeze dried, packed in medical kits, and mixed with water to become blood-like.
He discusses the project in depth in a recent episode of think[box] Radio, the podcast of the Case Alumni Association. Find the show at casealumni.org/thinkboxradio/.