Cord blood banking initially emerged as a commercial service in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, because of potential applications related to Transplant Medicine. While an effective therapeutic approach, this unfortunately produced low utilization rates for stored cord blood units.
As a result, Regenerative Medicine (RM) applications of cord blood emerged over time, expanding approved used for cord blood to approximately 80 total. Exciting regenerative medicine applications for umbilical cord blood include its potential to treat neurological conditions, such as cerebral palsy (CP) and autism. These applications are being researched by one of the luminaries in the field, Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg of the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development and the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank.
As the cord blood market has expanded to include a wide range of perinatal tissues, including umbilical cord tissue, placental blood and tissue, and amniotic fluid and tissue, the new frontier has become Longevity applications. Perinatal is a term describing the period right before and after birth.
A fascinating company called Celularity recently arrived on the scene with 830+ patents related to placental cells and other technologies and $250M in funding announced February 2018. Founded by serial entrepreneur Dr. Robert Hariri, it is exploring Longevity and Augmented Immunity applications for cord blood and perinatal tissues, with a focus on placental cell technologies.
Evolution of Cord Blood Banking
Since cord blood banking came into existence in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the market has evolved to include applications related to:
- Transplant Medicine
- Regenerative Medicine
- Longevity and Augmented Immunity
With growing applications for cord blood and perinatal stem cell types, the list of approved uses for these tissues could potentially expand beyond the 80 approved uses for cord blood that now exist to hundreds.
This could represent a major breakthrough for the industry, because less than 1% of all units in storage on a global basis are utilized for therapeutic purposes. While public cord blood banks also sell smaller units for research purposes, the bulk of cord blood units remain underutilized.