Dr. Branch’s research focuses mainly in the area of immunotherapy and transfusion medicine: A major area of his research is related to the mechanism of action and replacement of high-dose intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) used in patients having autoimmune/inflammatory diseases.
In this work, Dr. Branch utilizes both in vitro and in vivo methods. He uses an in vitro assay of monocyte, M1 and M2 macrophage phagocytosis to investigate interactions of antibody-opsonized red blood cells and ability of possible IVIG replacements to inhibit phagocytosis compared to IVIG. Using mouse models of immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) he examines the mechanism of amelioration of these conditions by IVIG and potential replacements. His research into the mechanism of IVIG amelioration of ITP has challenged current models and revealed a potential universal mechanism of action involving IVIG-induced production of interleukin-11 (IL-11).
Dr. Branch is actively involved in drug discovery for a small molecule replacement for IVIG as well as collaborating with a company to examine efficacy of fully recombinant Fc multimers. In this work he has discovered a class of pyrazole compounds that are effective at inhibiting phagocytosis in vitro and at least one candidate molecule that shows efficacy in an animal model of immune thrombocytopenia (ITP).
In addition, Dr. Branch has found that fully recombinant Fc hexamers are 10-100-fold more efficacious than IVIG for inhibiting phagocytosis in vitro and 10-fold more efficacious than IVIG to ameliorate ITP or RA.
Dr. Branch also collaborates with the 5 Toronto-based hospitals to examine the potential clinical significance of antibodies to red blood cell in a transfusion setting using an assay called the monocyte monolayer assay (MMA) which he pioneered in the 1980s. This assay is used to aid the hospitals in the selection of donor blood for transfusion in certain patients
The laboratory is a certified Level 2 facility and is located at 67 College St. within the Canadian Blood Services building. The lab environment is exceptional. We have approximately 1000 square feet of research and office space. We have a fully equipped laboratory with all necessary equipment for biomedical research including three double -80C freezers and four -20C freezers, plus two cold (4C) cabinets, a walk in 4C cold room, a PCR room, a radioisotope work room certified by CNSC as an intermediate level radiation laboratory, four biological containment cabinets, low and high-speed centrifuges, water baths and four double CO2 incubators.
We collaborate with and share equipment with Principal Investigators within the Toronto General Research Institute (TGRI) located on the 4th floor of the Canadian Blood Services building. Thus, we have access to two FACS machines, a phosphorimager, lightcycler real-time PCR, film dark room and developer, fluorescent microscope, cell disrupters, ultra-centrifuges, liquid nitrogen storage, another walk in cold room, as well as a library with most relevant current journals and extra computers. We have use of the UHN small animal facility located on the 6th floor of the Canadian Blood Services building.