Thirteen/WNET PBS

Innovators & Pioneers

Edward Shanbrom

Born: 1924
Nationality: American
Occupation: hematologist, medical researcher

Edward Shanbrom was born in West Haven, CN, in 1924, and served in the Navy from 1943 until 1946. He received his B.S. in biology from Alleghany College and his M.D. from the University of Buffalo School of Medicine (now SUNY-Buffalo). After an internship at University Hospital in Buffalo, Shanbrom learned about parasitology and tropical medicine during a residency in Panama and hematology during a fellowship at Yale.

Following his Yale fellowship, he served as a physician, specializing in hematology, at the City of Hope Medical Center, Duarte, CA; Orange County General Hospital (now University of California, Irvine, Medical Center); St. Joseph Hospital, Orange, CA; and was a clinical instructor at both UCLA and UC Irvine medical schools.

His career then took a decidedly non-academic turn when he became vice president of medical and scientific affairs at the Hyland division of Baxter Laboratories in the late-1960s. At Hyland, he was one of developers of a new method for producing a clotting factor in blood that normally stops bleeding. It is the absence of this factor -- known as Factor VIII -- that causes uncontrolled bleeding in the majority of hemophiliacs. Shanbrom and his colleagues devised a method to produce large quantities of Factor VIII, a process still in use today, that hemophiliacs could be treated with to allow their blood to clot normally. This breakthrough therapy made it possible for those suffering from hemophilia to lead more normal lives.

In the mid-1970s, Shanbrom left Hyland to conduct research at his home, and developed the blood purification process that uses mild detergents to sweep away viruses from blood plasma. He is considered one of the leaders in the use of detergents and other natural products to destroy viruses (including HIV), bacteria, and other contaminants in blood. The New York Blood Center bought his patented processes in 1988.

Shanbrom is still working out of his house in Santa Ana, California. His wife, Helen, is his business manager, and family members chip in to help organize his papers that span a 50-year career. He is now looking at the uses of iodine as a cost-effective cleansing agent for donated blood and at how extracts from juices, wine, and other natural products may help prevent infection.

"Some of these ideas are so simple, so basic," Shanbrom says. "I'm always interested in looking at new ways to use everyday, natural products to develop treatments that people can afford. I don't do sophisticated science; my work is quick and feasible. But they can be very important."

In addition to his work, he is an ardent supporter of the performing arts and of the medical school and hospital at UC Irvine.

Source: The University of California, Irvine College of Medicine.