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US hospital-biotechnology partnership to offer stem cell banking

13 March 2007
Appeared in BioNews 398

A hospital in the US has teamed up with a biotechnology company to allow pregnant women to bank their baby's cord blood and placental stem cells in what is thought to be the first official programme to encourage stem cell banking in the country. The Saint Barnabas Medical Center, based in Livingston, New Jersey, entered into partnership with LifebankUSA, to launch the program targeting expectant couples.

Richard Miller, who heads the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at St. Barnabas, has emphasised that the programme is designed to allow women the choice to bank stem cells as part of the standard educational advice offered by the hospital to expectant parents. 'This is not something we are going to push them to buy', he said, adding 'we hope to make this part of their health care choice'. Lifebank is a subsidiary of biotechnology company Celgene, which charges thousands of dollars to extract and bank stem cells. Miller says the program is designed 'for those who are willing to make that investment today for the promise of very exciting potential therapies in the future'.

In the UK, Richard Branson recently launched the 'Virgin Health Bank' as part of his Virgin empire to offer stem cell storage for a fee of £1,500. Parents will be given the option to store their new born baby's cord blood stem cells for twenty years in 'dual banking'. The cells will be stored in a private bank - for the use of the donor's family - and a public bank, where cells will be available for anyone to access.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Hospital offers option for storing stem cells from cord, placenta
The Star-Ledger |  7 March 2007
New Jersey Hospital Launches Program Encouraging Expectant Couples To Bank Adult Stem Cells
Kaiser Network |  8 March 2007
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