Belgian Red Cross Scientific Advisory Board meeting


From left to right: Dr. Wim Parys, Prof. Emmy De Buck (Director CEBaP), Prof. Walter Jaoko, Prof. Philippe Vandekerckhove (CEO Belgian Red Cross), Caroline Fiennes, Prof. Hendrik Feys (Principle Investigator TReC), Prof. Jimmy Volmink, Prof. Jacques Van Dongen

In order to provide aid with impact, the Belgian Red Cross invests a lot in research and evidence-based methods. In addition to operational research in the daily activities, the Belgian Red Cross hosts three research centres:

  1. Our Centre for Evidence-Based Practice (CEBaP), focusing on primary and secondary research to support Belgian Red Cross activities;
  2. The Transfusion Research Centre (TReC), investigating topics of blood storage, immunology and platelet biology;
  3. The newly launched Third Pillar Research Centre (TPRC), focusing on the role/impact of the “third pillar” (the not-for-profit sector) in creating a balanced society.

In 2017, a Belgian Red Cross Scientific Advisory Board was established, to receive advice from relevant experts outside the organization, on the research strategy and the way the different research activities are evolving.
The board is chaired by Prof. Jimmy Volmink, former Dean of Medicine and Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University, founding director of Cochrane South Africa, and current Chief Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Officer at the Wellcome Trust. Prof. Volmink is an expert in Evidence-Based Medicine and previously collaborated with CEBaP in the development of evidence-based African first aid guidelines (the current “Basic First Aid in Africa” materials).
Other members of the board are:

  1. Dr. Wim Parys, expert in infectious diseases and drug development with many years of experience in pharmaceutical companies such as Johnson & Johnson;
  2. Prof. Jacques Van Dongen, expert in medical immunology and translational research at Leiden University Medical Center;
  3. Caroline Fiennes, director of Giving Evidence and advocate for effective, evidence-based philanthropy and charity;
  4. Prof. Walter Jaoko, expert in medical microbiology and tropical medicine and director of the KAVI-Institute of Clinical Research at the University of Nairobi.

On 7 and 8 September, the board gathered for a face-to-face meeting in Ghent, close to the Belgian Red Cross Blood Service buildings in Ghent.
On the first meeting day, we presented our progress compared to previous recommendations made by the board, the current Belgian Red Cross strategic plan and how research is one of the ten main pillars of this strategy, and we had several interesting discussions about quality management, funding, and measuring impact of research.
On the second meeting day, several Belgian Red Cross colleagues involved in research presented their work (ranging from guidelines on first aid in case of mental health problems to research on a COVID-19 convalescent plasma nose spray), and the board got a tour of the TReC laboratory where they could see the state-of-the-art laboratory equipment and the TReC researchers in action. The meeting day ended with a closed session of the board, and reporting back to us with commendations and recommendations for the future.

Prof. Hendrik Feys hosting a tour of the TReC laboratory, where the board could see the state-of-the-art laboratory equipment and the TReC researchers in action