Vitalant Research Institute: New Leader, Same Tradition of Research Excellence

Vitalant Research Institute’s tradition of excellence in lifesaving research will continue under new leadership, as founder and Director Michael Busch, M.D., Ph.D., begins to wind down his storied career and transitions to a new role as director emeritus of Vitalant Research Institute while continuing as a vice president of research and scientific programs within Vitalant. After an extensive external and internal search, Brian Custer, Ph.D., M.P.H, was selected to lead the Research Institute as director and senior vice president of research and scientific programs with Vitalant.

“Through his accomplished career, Dr. Busch has made an impact not only on Vitalant, but on the field of blood banking and transfusion medicine in the U.S. and internationally,” said Vitalant Chief Medical & Scientific Officer Ralph Vassallo, M.D. “We’re grateful that Dr. Busch will continue to serve and support the Vitalant Research Institute and are excited to see Dr. Custer assume leadership of the organization in its ongoing role as a leading transfusion medicine research institute and industry pioneer.”

About Dr. Custer
VRI_0719_2.jpgDr. Custer, who joined the Research Institute 18 years ago, most recently served as director of epidemiology and policy science at the Research Institute and vice president of research and scientific programs at Vitalant. He is also a professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

He earned his Ph.D. in health outcomes research and Master of Public Health in epidemiology from the University of Washington in Seattle. He conducts epidemiology and health outcomes research with blood donors and transfusion recipients. His research program addresses topics in infectious disease epidemiology, health policy, and health economics of the blood supply and transfusion medicine interventions.

He served two full terms on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability. He is a principal investigator for multiple projects funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and has authored over 200 publications in blood safety and transfusion medicine research.

He is currently the chair of the International Society of Blood Transfusion Transmitted Infectious Diseases Working Party, and actively involved in several committees and working groups of the Association for the Advancement of Blood and Biotherapies (AABB), including the TRANSFUSION editorial board. 

“The Vitalant Research Institute has been at the forefront in our industry, and I am humbled and honored to have the opportunity to lead our efforts in the future,” Dr. Custer said. “Dr. Busch has built a legacy during his career, and I look forward to continuing to work with him as we advance blood safety and transfusion efficacy worldwide through scientific research and education.”

About Dr. Busch
VRI_0719_3.jpgDr. Busch, who in addition to director of Vitalant Research Institute also served as Vitalant’s senior vice president of research and scientific programs, has played a leadership role in numerous national multi-center research studies funded by the National Institute of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.
He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of California Santa Barbara and his medical degree and Ph.D. from the University of Southern California. In addition to his role at the Research Institute, he also serves as professor of laboratory medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, where he completed his residency in pathology and laboratory medicine and fellowship in blood banking and transfusion medicine.

Dr. Busch is a member of the transfusion-transmitted diseases committee of the AABB, the research and development advisory committee of Canadian Blood Services, and several World Health Organization panels. He is also the current president of the International Society of Blood Transfusion.

His major research interests include the epidemiology, natural history, pathogenesis and laboratory evaluation of transfusion-associated infections, blood safety implications of new and emerging infectious diseases, immunological consequences of transfusion and the rapidly evolving area of precision transfusion medicine. He has authored more than 600 research papers during his exceptional career.
“I am grateful for the continued funding and support that the Vitalant Research Institute and I have received through the years,” Dr. Busch said. “Reflecting on the advancements in transfusion medicine that have been influenced by the Institute and the teams working here is truly humbling. I look forward to supporting Dr. Custer and continuing to serve alongside our outstanding team members and many outside collaborators on lifesaving research.”