The global cord blood industry came into existence in the early 1990’s with the formation of several leading cord blood banks in the USA, followed by the establishment of cord blood banks across the globe. However, the history of cord blood stem cell transplantation begins much earlier than that.
The History of Banking Cord Blood
In this article:
- Public Cord Blood Banking
- Private Cord Blood Banking
- Cord Blood Registry
- Cord Tissue Banking
- Placental Blood and Tissue Banking
- Menstrual Fluid Stem Cells
- Cord Blood Industry Trends
- Cord Blood Expansion Technologies
A Brief History of the Cord Blood Banking Industry
Below, a brief history of the cord blood banking industry is explored.
In 1974, it was first proposed that stem and progenitor cells were present in human cord blood. By 1983, the concept of using umbilical cord blood as an alternative source of stem cells for transplant had been proposed.
By 1988, the first successful cord blood transplant to regenerate blood and immune system cells occurred in Paris, France, performed by Dr. Eliane Gluckman. It was used in the treatment of a six-year-old boy suffering from the blood disorder “Fanconi’s Anemia.”
By 1989, Dr. Broxmeyer and colleagues had released an important article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that identified that cord blood has similar attributes to bone marrow and is a plentiful source of stem and progenitor cells for use in a transplant. The paper proposed that cord blood could act as a possible alternative source to bone marrow for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.
Public Cord Blood Banking
In 1989, Cryo-Cell International was founded in Oldsmar, Florida (USA). However, the company did not start storing cord blood until 1992. By 1992, the New York Blood Center had opened the first public bank for umbilical cord blood storage using funding provided by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). In the same year (1992), the University of Arizona in Tucson also stored the first cord blood sample in the world for private (family) use.
Private Cord Blood Banking
In 1993, ViaCord was founded as a private cord blood bank. In the same year (1993), the first cord blood transplant between a donor and recipient not related to one another occurred, first performed at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina (USA).
By 1995, the Cord Blood Registry (CBR) was founded, and the company has since grown into the single largest private cord blood bank worldwide, as determined by the number of cord blood and tissue units banked.
While Cord Blood Registry® was acquired in June 2015 by the pharmaceutical giant AMAG Pharmaceuticals for $700 million, the company continues to operate under its brand name, Cord Blood Registry®. In February 2018, Bloomberg reported interesting news that AMAG may be “weighing the sale” of Cord Blood Registry.
Cord Tissue Banking
In 2008, cord tissue storage was then introduced as a service within Asia, when a Taiwanese company, HealthBanks Biotech Company Ltd., began offering the service – making it the first company worldwide to do so.
HealthBaby, a Hong Kong-based company subsequently launched the service in 2009, and another Hong Kong-based company, CryoLife, added the service that year as well.
Therefore, Asia is recognized as the region in which umbilical cord tissue banking became a commercial service.
By 2010, the first cord blood bank in the U.S. (Cord Blood Registry) had added cord tissue storage as a service offering. By 2013, approximately one quarter of private U.S. cord blood banks were offering the service, and by 2015, the percentage rose to over 50%. Today, nearly all private cord blood banks offer both cord blood and tissue storage.
Placental Blood and Tissue Banking
LifebankUSA, operated by serial entrepreneur Dr. Robert Hariri of Celularity Inc., was one of the earliest private cord blood banks to offer placental stem cell banking, a service which it launched in 2006. Today, LifebankUSA is the only U.S. cord blood bank to offer storage of both placental tissue and placental blood.
In 2012, Americord Registry launched the service of placental tissue banking to complement its cord blood banking services, making it the second private bank to offer this service within the United States. By September 2017, the company began offering placental tissue banking as a stand-alone service.
ReeLabs in India is an example of an international cord blood bank that offers the service of placental tissue banking. The Indian cord blood and tissue banking market is of growing importance, because India has a population of 1.3 billion and is projected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country by 2024.
Menstrual Fluid Stem Cells
There are also cord blood banks, such as LifeCell International in India, that store menstrual fluid stem cells. LifeCell is India’s largest cord blood bank. The company has ISO 9001:2008 certification for collection, testing, processing, storage and release of human umbilical cord blood, cord tissue and menstrual fluid stem cells.
Established in 2004, it was India’s first private stem cell bank. With more than 270,000 units in storage, LifeCell has remained India’s largest cord blood bank and is one of the ten largest cord blood banks worldwide.
The company also offers preventive diagnostic services under its BabyShield brand, a program targeted at reducing the infant mortality ratio in India.
Cord Blood Industry Trends
Today, the cord blood banking industry is maturing and consolidating, creating both serious threats and novel opportunities.
One of the most prominent trends within the global cord blood banking industry is the pairing of cord blood and tissue storage with additional genetic services, to include pre- and post-natal genetic testing, genome sequencing, and metabolic screening tests. The rise of this trend is driven by the ability of cord blood banks to offer complimentary services to existing clients, thereby expanding and diversifying their product portfolio. As one cord blood executive explained to us, “We are expanding the relationship with the mother.”
Cord blood banks are also becoming diversified stem cell banks, providing storage services for multiple types of perinatal tissues including cord blood, cord tissue, placental, and amnion. Many cord blood banks are diversifying into the storage of adult stem cell types as well, such as dental pulp stem cells (DPSCs) and adipose-derived stem cells (ADSCs).
Finally, pricing competition is becoming fierce. Within the United States, HealthBanks Biotech (previously PacifiCord) recently announced the industry’s lowest pricing of only $19.99 per moth.
Cord Blood Expansion Technologies
Additionally, technologies for ex vivo expansion of cord blood are showing promise in numerous clinical trials worldwide, with Gamida Cell, Nohla Therapeutics, and ExCellThera having products that have reached Phase II clinical trials.
Magenta Therapeutics has a Phase I trial underway and Plasticell has developed a small-molecule driven, GMP-compliant method of expanding hematopoietic stem cells from cord blood, bone marrow and peripheral blood that it is developing in conjunction with Anthony Nolan.
This is the first time in history that human safety and efficacy data is being collected for multiple cord blood expansion technologies.
Listed below are companies with clinical-stage cord blood expansion technologies:
- Magenta Therapeutics: SR1 (Phase I)
- ExCellThera: UM171 (Phase II)
- Nohla Therapeutics: Notch Ligand (Phase II)
- Gamida Cell: Nicotinamide (Phase II)