Cambridge University Hospitals in the UK is collaborating with Virgin Health Bank in an initiative to fight a range of cancers through better access to stem cell therapy.The cord blood bank, headquartered in Qatar and co-founded by Sir Chris Evans – father of the Cambridge biotech cluster – is working with CUH to fight leukaemia, lymphoma and sickle-cell anaemia.
The partners are collaborating in several research areas to improve the availability of cord blood banking and stem cell therapies for UK patients.
The alliance is believed to be the first of its kind between a private cord blood bank and a National Health Service Foundation Trust.
Cord blood is left in the umbilical cord after childbirth and is a rich source of stem cells; these can be garnered for use in therapies.
The National Health Service has already used stem cells from VHB in a successful transplant for a child with sickle-cell anaemia.
Dr Mike Scott of Cambridge University Hospitals felt the collaboration could lead to broader benefits. Therapeutic tissue could be provided to replace diseased or damaged tissues in patients with conditions such as diabetes, degenerative neurological disorders and cardiovascular disease, he believes.
Global media sources are reporting that mothers delivering babies at the Rosie Hospital at the Addenbrooke’s site in Cambridge will be able to contract with VHB to have the cord blood of their newborns collected and stored rather than discarded.
VHB has already banked hundreds of cord blood units from hospitals in Qatar at its state-of-the-art facility at QSTP. It is owned by Qatar Foundation, the Excalibur Group owned by Sir Chris Evans and the Virgin Group headed up by Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson.
Sir Christopher Evans told Business Weekly: “I'm delighted we have formed this ground-breaking partnership with Cambridge University Hospitals. Not only is it a further demonstration of Virgin Health Bank's position as the leading independent cord blood bank, but more importantly it will make additional stem cell units available for transplantation in the UK free of charge to UK transplant teams.”
• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Sir Chris Evans - co-founder of VHB