University of Brighton’s Donor Research team have received a share of £685,000 funding as part of the Government’s commitment to continue to promote organ, blood, and stem cell donation among Black and Asian communities.

The Donor Research team is one of 50 grassroots organisations receiving funding through the Community Grants Programme, previously known as the Community Investment Scheme. The programme is managed by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) and helps to fund community groups to deliver projects that encourage more minority ethnic people to become donors.

Donor Research is an award-winning network of University students and academics from diverse backgrounds, supported by healthcare professionals and funded by NHSBT. Its programme of activities has already seen the recruitment of a team of Student Champions to promote awareness of blood and organ donation.

The team has also joined forces with artist Sarah Akinterinwa to create a selection of eye-catching comics that will help raise awareness and tell the story about blood and organ donation especially for Black and Asian communities. Sarah is a renowned editorial illustrator, graphic designer and fine artist, including being a cartoonist for New Yorker Magazine.

Simonne Weeks, Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Science and Project Lead for Donor Research at the University, said “We are delighted to have the opportunity to broaden the scope of our impact as we partner with an esteemed Black-British artist, Sarah Akinterinwa. Together, we are creating an exciting catalogue of comics that will raise awareness through the art of storytelling on key topics about blood and organ donation that specially relate to Black and Asian people in our community.”

More donors are urgently needed because the shortage of donors from Black and Asian communities means that patients from these communities can have worse outcomes – and while White patients have about an 80-90% chance of finding a stem cell match from a stranger, Black, Asian and mixed-race people can only find a stem cell match from a stranger around 30-40% of the time. People from the same ethnic background are more likely to be a match.

Altaf Kazi, Assistant Director, Partnerships and Community Engagement at NHSBT, said: “We have seen first-hand the abilities of trusted individuals and community groups to prompt conversation, tackle misinformation, educate, and offer reassurance around donation. Too many donation opportunities are missed because families haven’t discussed organ donation, and Black and Asian people are seriously underrepresented when it comes to donating blood and stem cells. We are really excited to work with these grassroots champions to address inequalities and help save more lives.”