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Smith: Expansion of Cord Blood Banking, Stem Cell Research Program Will Save More Lives and Yield New Treatments

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Smith: Expansion of Cord Blood Banking, Stem Cell Research Program Will Save More Lives and Yield New Treatments

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) today said that a new round of federal grants to cord blood banks will "expand the nation's network of life-saving, ethical stem cells to reach more people in need of therapies for the more than 70 conditions and diseases cord blood stem cells can treat."

Smith—the author of the landmark law "Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005" (P.L. 109-129) which created the National Cord Blood Inventory (NCBI) and authorized funding to support it—said that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that they have awarded $13.9 million to eight cord blood banks. Six banks that received contracts in 2006 received funding again and HHS also awarded $2.2 million in new contracts to a second group of umbilical cord blood banks so they can begin collecting for the NCBI.

"It is predicted that the two new contracts in this second round of grants alone will add close to 1,900 new cord blood units to the NCBI, expanding the reach of the healing power of cord blood stem cells and pumping additional resources into cutting-edge, ethical and effective stem cell research," Smith said.

Umbilical cords are a rich, non-controversial source of stem cells. Hospitals previously had been throwing millions of them away each year because the infrastructure required to properly collect and store them was not available prior to the enactment of the "Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005." Smith's law authorized the federal funds just released which will give the medical community the ability to salvage and utilize the stem cells from umbilical cords to save lives.

"Leukemia, Cerebral Palsy, Sickle Cell Anemia and Hodgkin's Disease are among the 70 diseases and conditions from which adults and children already are successfully being treated with stem cells derived from cord blood," Smith said. "This fresh infusion of federal funds will ensure that the NCBI can continue to match cord blood units for those in need now while opening the door to even more cures and treatments in the future through cord blood stem cell research."

The new grant recipients in this round are the St. Louis Cord Blood Bank in St. Louis, MO which received a grant of $549,968 and the Texas Cord Blood Bank in San Antonio, TX which received a grant of $1.66 million.

Additionally, contracts were awarded for the second time to the Milstein National Cord Blood Program at the New York Blood Center; the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank at Duke University Medical Center; the University of Colorado Cord Blood Bank in CO; StemCyte, Inc.; Puget Sound Blood Center; and MD Anderson Cancer Center.

"Last year, HHS awarded over $12 million in federal funds to establish the NCBI and begin the procurement of cord blood units. According to HHS, approximately 5,300 units of cord blood have been collected by the first grant recipients to date. This second round of grants shows the federal government is committed to continuing to build the capacity of the NCBI," Smith said.

The banks will use the funding toward the goal of collecting 150,000 new genetically-diverse units of cord blood, a goal that is intended to meet the needs of 90% of patients-both child and adult-and make the units available to a patient within one week (or 24 hours in emergency cases).

All blood units collected and deemed not suitable for transplant will be donated for research. Cord blood stem cells have the potential to grow into other types of cells and reproduce in a Petri dish which makes them valuable for research into diseases that are not blood-related, such as Parkinson's and diabetes.

"This money is being invested in research that has a proven track record. It is important to note that to this date, adult stem cells—like those in umbilical cord blood—is the only form of stem cell research to have ever produced medical treatments. The investment in ethical stem cell research will undoubtedly help lead us to even more medical uses for cord blood, enabling more diseases and conditions to be treated and more patients to be helped—and hopefully cured," Smith said.

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