Celebrating 70 Years of Saving Lives - Timeline


September 11, 1950
San Diego Blood Bank (SDBB) was established by a group of community leaders who recognized the importance of a local blood bank.

1950 to 1953
Annual donations averaged 27,000 pints in San Diego County.

Sharp Healthcare system began receiving blood from SDBB. We are proud of this long-term partnership.


San Diego Blood Bank supported the early development of open-heart surgery in San Diego in the 1960s. At that time, several pints of blood were necessary just to prime heart-lung machines. 


SDBB was among the country's first blood banks to tissue-match blood components for cancer patients and others with serious blood disorders.  

Dr. Jonas Salk, board president Peter Ellsworth, and Medical Director Dr. Victor DePratti (pictured above left) attend the dedication of the landmark Hillcrest location (pictured above middle). 

SDBB debuted its first bloodmobile in 1974 (pictured above right).

August 1977
The Robert A. Heinlein Blood Drive began at San Diego Comic-Con in 1977. That first year, 148 pints of blood were collected, and as the convention has grown, so has our blood drive. Over the past 42 years (1977-2019), 22,607 pints of blood have been donated by Comic-Con attendees! San Diego Blood Bank estimates that our 42-year total has saved more than 67,000 lives!

September 1978
Following the PSA airline crash, some 1,000 people came to the Upas Street SDBB location to show community support (line outside SDBB, pictured above left). A total of 652 people donated blood that day, an all-time record at the time.

SDBB held the inaugural Chargers Blood Drive in response to a community call-to-action to support Chargers placekicker Rolf Benirschke (pictured above right, signing autographs for fans) after he had two emergency abdominal surgeries that required almost 80 pints of blood to survive. Over the course of 38 years, nearly 74,000 pints were donated at the annual Chargers Blood Drive.  


SDBB established the region's first bone marrow donor program in 1988 as part of the National Marrow Donor Program Registry.  

July 1981
San Diego Blood Bank remained able to accept blood donations without interruption after a fire destroyed its main office. SDBB operations moved to the Town and Country Convention Center thanks to owner Terry Brown. 

July 1984
San Diego Blood Bank responded to a spontaneous outpouring of more than 1,000 donors in the wake of a massacre at a McDonald’s Restaurant in San Ysidro that left 21 people dead. 

By 1986, SDBB blood collection reached more than 86,000 pints annually. 


San Diego Blood Bank responded to a request by the Department of Defense for weekly blood shipments during Operation Desert Storm. The community rallied around the call to support our troops.  

November 1997
San Diego Chargers Blood Drive set the first Guinness World Record for “largest single-day, single-location blood drive” for surpassing 1,853 blood donations. By 1998, the Chargers Drive had increased collections 38% with a record of 2,549 total volunteer blood donations. 


September 11, 2001
SDBB sent 380 pints of blood to New York on the afternoon of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center with the help of the United States Navy. On the day of the tragedy and the days that followed, blood donors lined up to give blood, many waiting in line for several hours. By the end of the week, more than 3,000 people had donated blood in support.

November 2003
In the week following the outbreak of devastating wildfires in San Diego County, nearly 3,200 people gave blood to replenish the community's blood supply and to make up for several blood drives that were canceled due to the fires. That figure is more than double the number of blood donors who gave blood in a typical week at that time. 


Headquarters for SDBB moved from Upas Street, a 40,000-squarefoot building occupied in Hillcrest for nearly 40 years, to a state-of-the art 95,000-square-foot space two miles east of downtown San Diego. (pictured above left).  

Public cord blood bank efforts were renewed, enabling mothers to donate umbilical cord blood to support patients in need of bone marrow transplants worldwide. SDBB began processing and storing umbilical cord tissue in 2019 as part of its efforts to support innovative cell therapies.

By 2014, San Diego Blood Bank had collected more than 3,000,000 blood donations from volunteer unpaid blood donors. 

Local sports teams have a rich tradition of supporting blood donation. Following the departure of the San Diego Chargers and the loss of the largest single day blood drive, sports teams in San Diego rallied. The San Diego Padres stepped up to the plate by hosting the Padres Summer Blood Drive. The Holiday Bowl, San Diego Gulls, and the San Diego Soccers launched new blood drives that continue to grow. It takes the entire team to save lives!

SDBB partnered with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) All of Us Research Program, a historic effort to gather data from one million or more people living in the United States to accelerate health research and medical breakthroughs. 

2020 and Beyond

In partnership with our community, San Diego Blood Bank ensures a safe blood supply to the region and supports a variety of wellness and research initiatives related to cancer, regenerative medicine, and more.

We distribute more than 150,000 blood products (red cells, platelets and plasma units) annually. Ensuring a safe blood supply for our region remains our top priority. As a champion for community wellness, SDBB has a wide variety of community partnerships that extend our reach. For example, in 2020, we partnered to establish Southern California's first non-profit milk bank, the University of California Health Milk Bank.  

SDBB partners with more than 100 researchers on projects related to cancer, regenerative medicine, and general health. An exciting initiative on the horizon is Precision Blood™. SDBB is partnering with San Diego hospitals to more precisely match blood products through a targeted DNA sequencing-based genotype method. The objective is to improve patient outcomes and usher in a new standard of medicine. 

The next 70 years will be filled with innovation, community partnership, and an indelible passion for Saving Lives Today and Improving Life Tomorrow.