The IBGRL was set up in 1946 to centralise production of blood grouping reagents and provide a reference centre for the newly formed National Blood Transfusion Service. Until 1984, all blood grouping reagents were prepared by the labour intensive process of selecting, absorbing and pooling human sera donated by blood donors. In the early 1980’s, hybridoma technology was emerging, and the possibility of producing monoclonal blood typing reagents was being explored. A monoclonal development laboratory was set up at IBGRL in 1982. The laboratory also financed the development of human monoclonal anti-D at Babraham, Cambridge and UKTS, Bristol . At this time the Immunochemistry Section of the SW Regional Transfusion Centre (SWRTC) was exploring the possibility of developing monoclonal antibodies to blood group active structures on red cells. The Immunochemistry department joined IBGRL and the SWRTC was renamed the NBS (National Blood Service) Midlands and South West Zone, BristolCentre.
In 1986 the activities of IBGRL were split. The production of major blood group reagents was undertaken by our sister laboratory, the BioProducts Laboratory at Elstree, in a newly created Diagnostics Division (BPL (D)). Reference, research and development work remained at IBGRL. In 1988 a concentrated program of reagent development was undertaken by staff from IBGRL, BPL (D) and SWRTC to produce a range of major blood grouping reagents based on selected monoclonal cells lines developed by SWRTC. These reagents were successfully launched by BPL (D) in April 1990. BPL stopped production of blood grouping reagents in 1996. These cell lines were licensed to commercial companies who were then known as Bioscot and Excel Biotech.
Many other monoclonal cell lines were produced by the SWRTC and IBGRL (both internally and from externally funded R & D). These antibodies were not exploited and marketed by BPL (D), as they did not have potential as major blood grouping reagents. During further characterisation and studies, the activities of some of these antibodies were studied by various International Workshops. As a result of the successful participation and performance of some of the antibodies, many requests were received from research workers for supplies of these antibodies. Most requests were fulfilled, but at IBGRL’s expense. The cost factor together with a lack of a carefully controlled quality and standardisation program led IBGRL during 1990 to undertake an extensive program of developing these popular cell lines for routine production and supply of antibody to other research workers. Some of these ‘non-blood grouping’ cell lines have been licensed by various commercial companies e.g. Dako and Stem Cell Technologies.