A research group at the University of Iceland, led by Sigurður Yngvi Kristinsson, professor of blood disease, has received a generous grant of 300 million ISK to amass biological samples of Icelanders, according to a university statement. The project is a part of the national initiative Blóðskimun til bjargar (“Blood Screening to the Rescue”) and is one of the largest science research projects in the world. Around 80 thousand Icelanders will take part by donating blood and bone marrow samples.
The grant is given by the Black Swan Research Initiative, a project within the International Myeloma Foundation, an American non-profit organisation serving patients with myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells in the bone marrow.
Myeloma is currently an incurable disease, with 25 people being diagnosed in Iceland every year and 200 thousand people in the rest of the world. With increasing research and new and improved medication, patient prognosis has improved dramatically over the past years.
Iceland’s myeloma blood screening initiative was first introduced in 2016, in partnership with the University of Iceland. The aim of the initiative is to look at the effects of blood screening and how it can help in understanding the disease, increasing the quality of life of those who are diagnosed with myeloma and hopefully one day find a cure. Every Icelander born in 1975 or earlier was offered to take part, with about 80 thousand people agreeing to participate.
The grant awarded to Sigurður and his team will enable them to build up an impressive blood and bone marrow sample collection for the Blood Screening to the Rescue initiative, which will have an application in further research down the line pertaining to the diagnosis and treatment of myeloma. “When new technology will be introduced we will be able to access our sample bank,” Sigurður says. “We’ll also be able to use more precise techniques to diagnose myeloma cells, even when it’s just one cell amongst millions, both in blood and bone marrow.”
The International Myeloma Foundation’s grant is a godsend to Sigurður and his team, who are optimistic about the future of myeloma research. “We’ve had such an amazing participation from the Icelandic public. The project will help us create valuable knowledge that hitherto hasn’t existed. We’ll be able to generate information on the beginning stages of myeloma and follow-up treatment,” a delighted Sigurður says.