Working Together, Finding Cures

OMRF, Oklahoma Blood Institute Partner to Fight Rheumatoid Arthritis

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and the Oklahoma Blood Institute have joined forces to combat rheumatoid arthritis.
The institutes will utilize OBI’s new software system, Bio-Linked, to match willing blood donors with researchers at OMRF to build a volunteer group for StopRA, an innovative U.S.-based prevention trial for rheumatoid arthritis, which is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, through their Autoimmunity Centers of Excellence program.


Judith James, M.D., Ph.D.


Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is a chronic illness characterized by inflammation of the lining of the joints. The symptoms include pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints, and ultimately the disease can result in loss of function and disability. While little is known about how RA develops, studies show some people at risk for the disease can be identified through testing for an autoantibody called ‘anti-CCP.’
“We know that individuals with this protein in their blood are at a higher risk,” said Judith James, M.D., Ph.D., StopRA investigator, OMRF’s Vice President of Clinical Affairs and chair of the foundation’s Arthritis and Clinical Immunology Research Program. “But we didn’t know how we could screen a large number of healthy individuals to see if they’re walking around with this risk factor to address the disease before it develops. That led to this beautiful partnership with OBI.”
OBI’s Bio-Linked initiative has made this early screening possible. Unveiled in late 2016, Bio-Linked is a unique software system in which OBI’s generous blood donors are matched with medical research projects like StopRA.
“This was created because we know there is a great need for people who are willing to participate in research,” said OBI Vice President of Quality Management and New Business Ventures Charles Mooney. “Our blood donors are the perfect people to recruit to do research because they are responsive, they care and they are willing to step up to do what needs to be done.”
This partnership allows blood donors to sign up to have some of their extra serum submitted as blinded or de-identified samples to be tested for specific antibodies associated with RA. If they test positive for the CCP antibody, OMRF will contact OBI, who will reach out to the donors with more information about the study.
In the first 6 weeks of the new arrangement between OBI and OMRF, more than 3,000 people agreed to have their blood tested for the anti-CCP antibody. Out of that group, about 40 people had the risk factor and were contacted by OBI. Nearly all of them subsequently contacted OMRF to inquire about the trial.
James said the goal of the trial is to assess whether early treatment can prevent these individuals from ever becoming RA patients.
Coming off the promising initial response, OMRF and OBI are working to secure funding for another round of screening.
“It is enormously rewarding for the Oklahoma Blood Institute to partner with Dr. James and OMRF in their valuable rheumatoid arthritis research,” said OBI President and CEO John Armitage, M.D. “Our donors have always been amazingly generous in giving blood to care for patients, but through this study, they are helping find ways to prevent disease symptoms from ever appearing in people with risk factors. This is a perfect public health collaboration whereby our healthy and willing volunteers are matched with brilliant scientists looking for people to help them unlock new medical treatments.”  
If you are interested in participating in StopRA or would like more information, please call (405) 271-7221 or email For more information on OBI’s Bio-Linked initiative, visit
“Preventing this disease from taking off would be life-changing not only for the individuals, but also their friends and families,” said OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D. “This powerful partnership positions us to do something about it.”

In the news: 

NewsOK: Oklahoma Blood Institute keeps changing with the times

NewsOK: OMRF, OBI partner to fight rheumatoid arthritis

News9: Donating blood could help identify risk for arthritis


About OMRF

OMRF ( is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institute dedicated to understanding and developing more effective treatments for human diseases. Its scientists focus on such critical research areas as cancer, diseases of aging, lupus and cardiovascular disease.

About OBI
Oklahoma Blood Institute is a non-profit, independent blood center now serving more than 160 hospitals, medical facilities and air ambulances throughout Oklahoma.


Copyright © 2017 Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, All rights reserved.


Bio-Linked Defined

Bio-Linked is groundbreaking software developed exclusively by Oklahoma Blood Institute that matches extraordinary people with the nation’s most promising medical research.

16,000 clinical studies are occurring daily, but progress is delayed when scientists cannot locate willing participants.  Built from a network of blood collectors, Bio-Linked provides scientists with a unique database of potential participants.

“Bio-Linked is a ‘’ for researchers who need people to help them further their studies,” said John Armitage, M.D., president & CEO of Oklahoma Blood Institute.  “It’s really the time in medicine to unlock the power of the individual, and we have so many generous individuals who unlock treatments.”

Using their donor identification number with their blood center, blood donors enroll in Bio-Linked online.  Bio-Linked contacts enrollees if they’re a match for a study, which may involve blood samples or voluntary participation.  All information is kept entirely confidential. 

 As one of the nation’s premier blood centers, Oklahoma Blood Institute is proud to introduce Bio-Linked and provide new hope for people battling serious illness.

Meet Blog Author Dr. Jennifer Chain

Jennifer L. Chain, Ph.D.


Dr. Jennifer Chain’s twenty-year career in scientific research has spanned academia, biotechnology industry, consulting, and non-profit. Beginning in 1998, Jennifer worked as research technician at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) and as undergraduate intern for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 1999. 

She began her graduate work in 2000 at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center studying human αβ and γδ thymocyte developmental checkpoints. In early 2006, Dr. Chain began her postdoctoral fellowships in Denver, Colorado; first at National Jewish Health where she studied γδ T cell activation and function, then at the University of Colorado Denver studying CD4 memory T cell senescence in clinical and autoimmune lung disorders.

In 2014 she followed her postdoctoral fellowships with an industry experience at a diagnostic testing company in Oklahoma called Moleculera Labs. There she studied biomarkers in autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders. Common themes running through all of Dr. Chain’s early career research experiences were cellular and molecular immunology, new method development, and technical optimization. She designed and utilized advanced molecular biology, cell culture, flow cytometry, and other techniques to build the scientific tools needed for her projects.

To apply and expand on her diverse skill set, Dr. Chain started her own R&D consulting firm in 2016 called Experimental Solutions to help scientists advance their research and product development goals. As a consultant, she helped clients design, perform, and analyze experiments, train staff, manage projects, and write procedures, publications, grant applications, and marketing documents.

Dr. Chain now serves as the Science Officer for Cellular Therapies at the Oklahoma Blood Institute (OBI). Through the organization’s Bio-Development division, she is starting a stem cell and cell therapy research and development program, which is a continuation of the consulting work she provided OBI for over one year as a consultant before this appointment.

About Bio-Sharing


For more than 75 years, community-based blood centers have provided safe blood products to hospitals for the treatment of patients in need.

During this time, our specialized infrastructure, knowledge, and skill set has allowed us to successfully recruit and screen consenting donors; then to collect, test, characterize, store, distribute, and infuse our blood-based pharmaceutical products.

Bio-Sharing is a partnership between this community of blood centers. We are teaming up together to grow and expand our mission to collect and provide safe blood products for patient care by offering customized, reliable, and scalable cellular products for use in the research, development, and manufacture of your blood-based therapy.

When you visit, you will be able to request a whole host of products and services from this wide network of blood centers.

These products and services include, but are not limited to, purified T lymphocytes, dendritic cells, hematopoietic stem cells, mesenchymal stromal cells, serum, plasma, customized flow cytometry assays, HLA-typing, large-scale cGMP-compliant cell processing and expansion, and expertise in quality control and regulatory compliance.

You will also have access to a database of willing research participants, through, with information about their personal and family medical and social history to help you find the right subjects for your research or clinical studies. There is also an option for customized questions that can be asked of the database members to further narrow down the right subjects.

Access to these products and services will help control the development and manufacturing costs of your new therapy and expand the base of research participants to the entire country.