The Heart Inside Oklahoma City’s Innovation Bloodline – Innovation within the Oklahoma Blood Institute
“Anyone who can put America’s Olympic Headquarters for rowing and kayaking in the middle of the Great Plains has the drive to be proactive and creative. We have got a confluence of assets in Oklahoma City, and if we push our beneficence and do it in a sophisticated, community-lifted way, no one will be able to catch us.”
That’s what Dr. John Armitage, the CEO at the Oklahoma Blood Institute (OBI), had to say to say when asked about Oklahoma City’s innovation potential, and he would have the insight. Oklahoma City’s lifeblood is innovation, and at the heart of it sits OBI. As innovators in biotechnology, software and the marrying of the two, they have become one of the world’s most advanced blood centers.
OBI is the sixth largest blood center in the United States in its size, but it sits atop the list when comes to the center’s technology integration as organizations, not just blood centers, are looking to OBI as an innovator.
Over the past decade, the Oklahoma Blood Institute has developed and implemented several technologies that have established themselves internationally as the go-to nonprofit blood center for innovation. And it all started with the forward-thinking idea of hiring a local, Software Engineer and building a program called BioLinked.
What happens when you give already-healthy, philanthropic blood donors another way to give back to their communities? They give more, and in new ways. This time, it would be through the donation of cells and participation in medical research.
BioLinked was the introduction of inviting blood donors to be volunteer, medical research subjects, and with the help of Blood Centers of America, it would be adopted nationally, and cover the nation with potential medical research subjects from all kinds of backgrounds. Donors could opt-in to fill out a simple questionnaire with their medical information, and that data would then be transferred into a quarriable data that researchers would have access to as they seek cures to the world’s most serious diseases and disorders. The concept was simple, brilliant and world changing.
After the success of BioLinked, OBI was drawn to the idea of revolutionizing how people could say ‘thank you’ in a digital age. Cue Thank the Donor – an application, originally developed in just a few weeks, that allows patients to anonymously provide messages of appreciation or thanks back to their blood donor.
In blood donation, all donations must be tracked back to the blood center, location and donor that collected the life-saving blood product, according to FDA requirements. With this in mind, OBI capitalized on the already-established tracking systems and began implementing their own systems of marking blood bags being shipped to hospitals with green hearts that would inform the hospitals of the application and allow them to teach transfusion recipients how to ‘Thank the Donor.’ The application, thankthedonor.org, took off and now has more than 35 blood centers throughout the United States as licensed Thank the Donor partners. OBI was also granted a patent for the Thank the Donor application by the USPTO, as of June 2021.
OBI’s most recent innovative and integrative project is called ShareThanks, a mobile and desktop application not just for blood centers, but for all nonprofits. The application, also set to be granted a patent in the coming weeks, takes a similarity from Thank the Donor, offering users the opportunity to say ‘Share Thanks’ anonymously, but it expands the offering to any nonprofit curator trying to protect anonymity between benefactors and beneficiaries, thus filling a major need for thousands of 501c3 organizations across the globe.
The Oklahoma Blood Institute and its work in integrating bioscience and software is transcending the nature of what public perception of a blood center is. Its international impact is putting Oklahoma City and the Innovation District on the map, and OBI is innovating in the charitable world of connecting people, rather than just solving their problems. This is key to what can continue to propel innovation in Oklahoma forward, and as Dr. Armitage says, set us apart as a unique, global leader in world-wide innovation.
“The Oklahoma City Innovation District represents a call out that asks, ‘What does it look like to create a beneficence economy?’ Our city is good at the ‘neighbors helping neighbors’ model, and if we double down on the concept of doing the right thing and helping those around us, we will see much good come from it – civic good, healing and progress. That needs a home, and OKC can be that home.”