The World Apheresis Association (WAA) is an umbrella organization of national and international professional societies which, according to the mission statement, is devoted to the scientific, medical, administrative and educational aspects of apheresis. Recognizing the need for a comprehensive world- view of apheresis, the WAA was formed in Dijon France, 1984 at a meeting held by the European Society of Artificial Organs (ESAO).
The first formal meeting, the “First International Congress” in Tokyo, Japan took place from May 26-29, 1986 and was sponsored by the World Apheresis Association under the presidency of Dr. Gerald Rifle of France in conjunction with the Japanese Society for Therapeutic Plasmapheresis. The Congress President was Professor T. Oda from Tokyo, Japan.
The seven founding societies of the WAA were:
- ASFA– American Society for Apheresis
- CAG– Canadian Apheresis Group
- ESFH– European Society for Haemapheresis
- GLHEMA-Group Latino America Hemapheresis
- ISAO– International Society for Artificial Organs
- JSTP- Japan Society of Therapeutic Plasmapheresis
- SFFP- Societe Francais d’Enchanges Plasmatiques
Over the course of the three -day congress physicians presented over 100 papers from more than 10 countries to establish an approach of international communication and collaboration. Then, the 2nd WAA congress was successfully held in Ottawa, Canada in 1998.
Now as the WAA celebrates its 36th anniversary this year, it has grown into a robust organization with 18 member societies, as shown in Table 1. Interested societies are invited to apply for membership to the WAA by sending a letter to the President of the WAA. All applications should include a copy of the organizations by-laws, a current list of board members and their positions. Details of their next annual meeting, key issues the organization may be facing and a list of any special events or projects the society has undertaken are also of interest. The most recent organizations to join the WAA are the Rare Hematologic Diseases Society (RHDS), Turkey and the Uzbekistan Hematology and Transfusiology Association (UHTA), Uzebkistan and in 2021 Israel. These 18 societies foster global collaboration in scientific investigation, research, clinical applications, and facilitate the availability of safe and effective apheresis techniques for the collection of donor cells and plasma as well as the removal or medication of blood constituents in disease.
Since its inception in 1986, the WAA has usually held its congress meetings bi-annually to discuss apheresis techniques and practices, research, interests and clinical indications for apheresis. These are sometimes very different in various parts of the world and these meetings provide an ideal way for members to broaden knowledge and interact with colleagues from other countries. The location of the meetings has historically alternated through various regions moving from East to West as shown in Table 2.
During each congress meeting the WAA presents the Cohn-de Laval Award. This prestigious award was named after Dr. Edwin Joseph Cohn and Dr. Karl Gustaf Patrik de Laval, who were both extraordinary pioneers of science whose ingenuity, discoveries and inventions were foundational to the evolution of the modern-day practice of apheresis science and medicine. The Cohn-de Laval award is given to an individual who is considered by their peers to have made significant scientific contributions to the discipline of apheresis or who has given outstanding service to the WAA (see Table 3). Nominations for this award are sent to the WAA board and the winner is selected by vote at least six months before each congress. The latest recipient of this award will be Dr. Loic Guillevin of France who will make a presentation and receive his award at the next congress of the WAA.
An additional award, the Abel-Rowntree-Turner award is presented at the congress meetings and is designated for young physicians in recognition of quality scientific research in the field of apheresis. This award, often given to two investigators during the meeting, is based on the best abstracts submitted to the Congress from a person under the age of 35 who should be the first author of the paper and the originator of the intellectual property.
A major activity of the WAA is an international data registry that began more than 20 years ago under the direction of Professor Berndt Stegmayr of Sweden. At that time, most existing registries were nation- based as well as specialty based (Nephrology, Transfusion Medicine etc). The goal was to create a registry to collect data on the routinely used therapeutic apheresis procedures performed worldwide, to gain more information about their effects and side effects, to have a basis for knowledge, transfer, technique and a common registry to perform retrospective and prospective studies. Founding members included the Canadian Apheresis Group (CAG) and the French Apheresis Group (FAS.) Although the data server was and is located in Sweden, the data entry is worldwide, and is made possible due to a web based data entry login. Each participating centre enters non-patient-identifiable data throughout the year. At the end of each year, participating centres receive a file of data entered that gives insight on methods and procedures to help optimize treatment. The WAA-registry is available to all member societies at no cost. In 2020, over 80,000 procedures in more than 20,000 patients were included in the database, and many publications in the peer- reviewed literature have used this database. The registry can be accessed by applying for a unique username by following the instructions on the WAA website at https://www.waa-registry.org/RegisterUser.aspx.
As their official publication, the WAA decided on the journal Plasma Therapy and Transfusion Technology now known as Transfusion and Apheresis Science (TAS). This international journal is another way in which the WAA carries out its goals, allowing the exchange of scientific information globally. Each of the 18 WAA member societies can appoint a member to sit on the Editorial Board to ensure the submissions collectively represent the entirety of the WAA. In each issue, a special Theme Section focuses on up-to-date apheresis information, techniques and procedures related to a single topic or theme. TAS features information on clinical trials as well as a Listening Post section dedicated to information important to our operators/nurses, the International Forum, People, Places and Things and a What’s Happening section in addition to the central feature of the peer-reviewed submissions. The WAA also publishes a newsletter outlining important developments in apheresis as well as news from each member society, and promotes the exchange of information among physicians and practitioners internationally.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the WAA was unable to host the 17th International Congress in Turkey in October 2020 as originally planned. However, in April 2021, the WAA hosted a virtual webinar entitled Apheresis Applications in the Covid Pandemic webinar with four international guest speakers. Due to the success of this international webinar, the WAA hosted another virtual webinar on September 15, 2021 on The Role of Apheresis in Cellular Therapies,Transplantation and Thrombosis Following Covid-19.
To view these webinars, please go visit our webinar page.