World's first public-private cord blood bank launched

April 1, 2007

Sir Richard Branson, owner of the Virgin Group, has established the world's first private and public cord blood stem cell bank in the United Kingdom. Although private banks have been established in several countries, this is the first facility that will have the dual role of storing cord blood stem cells in a private and public bank.

Sir Richard Branson, owner of the Virgin Group, has established the world's first private and public cord blood stem cell bank in the United Kingdom. Although private banks have been established in several countries, this is the first facility that will have the dual role of storing cord blood stem cells in a private and public bank.

The facility, known as the Virgin Health Bank, will store a child's umbilical cord blood in two portions-a private sample for the exclusive use of the child and his or her family, and a public sample offered free of charge for anyone requiring stem cell transplantation. It's expected that 20% of each sample will be held in the private bank, and 80% will be held in the public bank, reported the British Medical Journal (2/10/2007). Any future profits from the bank will be donated to charities involved in realizing the potential of cord blood stem cells.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists praised "the public nature and internal accessibility" of the cord blood bank. However, it-along with the Royal College of Midwives-warns that collecting cord blood should not interfere with a health-care professional's duty to the mother and child. To address this concern, a team of local advisors associated with the Virgin Health Bank will open discussions with health-care professionals involved in maternity care.