Bruce Chown Medicine

Studied Rh disease (erythroblastosis fetalis) and developed the serum which now prevents this illness worldwide

The Story

Dr. Chown was born in Winnipeg. After receiving his medical doctorate in 1922, he studied pediatrics at Columbia, Cornell and Johns Hopkins Universities. He then returned to Winnipeg to take a position as a pathologist at Children's Hospital.

Chown conducted research on Rh disease (erythroblastosis fetalis). Rh disease occurs in pregnancy when an Rh-positive fetus suffers severe anemia due to anti-Rh antibodies present in the mother. These antibodies could be there because the mother, who is Rh-negative, has previously given birth to an Rh-positive child, or because she has received a blood transfusion with Rh-positive blood. The mother's antibodies will cross the placenta into the fetal bloodstream, where they attack the baby's red blood cells.

Chown worked to understand Rh disease and how to treat it during pregnancy. He and his team then developed a vaccine, Rh gamma globulin, which prevents the disease from occurring. Chown's research led to the establishment of the Winnipeg company Rh Pharmaceuticals that went on to be a major world supplier of Rh gamma globulin. Rh Pharmaceuticals was purchased by Toronto-based pharmaceutical firm Apotex in 1990, then in 1995 Rh went public and took the name Cangene. It is now listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and 82 per cent owned by Apotex. Cangene sells its product –- purified and isolated human antibodies under the name of WinRho -– in 35 countries and reported sales of $157M in 2004.

Source: The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.

The Person

  • MD University of Manitoba, 1922
Last Updated
June 27, 2011

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