South Korean Biotech Company, Histostem, will invest $20 million to establish the world's largest umbilical cord blood bank in Mumbai, India, to provide stem cells for transplant surgeons globally. The Indian government will receive a 10% equity stake in this venture and two seats on the board of directors to ensure that government guidelines are followed, Said company president Mike Shen, who signed the agreement. To bank the cord blood tissues that are traditionally thrown away as waste the donor's family must give informed consent and pay a one time fee of about $280. In return the bank will provide stem cells free to the family when needed. Potential customers are families with inherited blood disorders like Thalassemia. Histostem claims the cord blood is also marketable as a stem cell product to those researching the possible applications of stem cells for spinal cord injuries and diabetes. Histostem has agreed to sell the stem cells only to government registered stem cell transplant centers, which all operate under the watchful eye of an ethical review board. Together with the Hyderabad based Apollo Hospitals Group. Histostem plans to establish canters in India. Shen said usage is currently limited to research and treatment, but might be expanded to other application "based on further need." Donors do not get a commission on the company's sales. Histostem chose India as the launch pad for its global operations because it" has the largest birth count in the world," and its one billion plus population is genetically diverse enough to match the genetic characteristics of people worldwide. The bank plans to collect 400,000 units of umbilical cord blood in three years. By creating similar banks in Mexico, Australia and Europe, and linking them, Histostem expects to offer Histocompatibility Leucocyte Antigen -HLA matched stem cells for every patient around the world.
(Source: Nature Biotechnology)