One element that is common among leading cord blood banks is their involvement in strategic alliances. This is not surprising, as it is valuable for cord blood banks to establish collaborative relationships with doctors, hospitals, birthing centers, insurance companies, government entities, medical researchers, public and private donors, and more.
However, the terms and scope of key strategic alliances within the cord blood industry are often kept quiet. Other times, the partnerships are well-known within the region involved, but not well understood on a global basis. For this reason, five key alliances that substantially impact the cord blood industry are explored below.
1. Cord Blood Registry and Women’s Health Alliance (Largest Women’s Healthcare Groups)
On December 3, 2013, the largest cord blood bank in the world announced an alliance of massive proportion. Specifically, the Cord Blood Registry (CBR) and the U.S. Women’s Health Alliance announced on this date that they had developed an educational initiative to provide quality, relevant information regarding umbilical stem cell collection to expectant parents across the United States. The Women’s Health Alliance is a collaboration between many of the largest women’s healthcare groups across the United States. It brings together nearly one thousand physicians providing care for millions of women, for the purpose of providing high quality services for women at affordable costs.
The partnership is also focused on furthering clinical research by screening for high-risk pregnancies and pre-diagnosed conditions that may be eligible to participate in Cord Blood Registry’s Newborn Possibilities Program®. This is a service that allows qualified families to store cord blood up to five years at no cost to the parent.
The partnership between the Alliance and CBR aims to improve cord blood collection efficiency, maximizing the number of cells collected and minimizing contamination. It will also pursue a high level of education for all expectant parents and seek to inform them of all the options they have with regard to stem cell storage. The Alliance and CBR will encourage expectant parents to follow the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation that they should seek a “balanced perspective” on cord blood options.
To date, CBR has also put extensive energy into partnering with leading research institutions for clinical trial purposes, using company funding to support FDA-regulated trials that are exploring new potential uses for umbilical cord stem cells. In addition, CBR has the longest history of accreditation with the AABB (formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks). CBR is also certified by the CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments), a federal program to ensure quality laboratory testing, and it owns and operates its own laboratory and storage facility in Tucson, Arizona.
The collaboration between the Women’s Health Alliance and CBR has both the potential to further medical knowledge through clinical trials and educational outreach programs, as well as the potential to further fortify the market dominance of CBR within the cord blood banking marketplace.
2. ViaCord and Destination Maternity (Largest Retailer of Maternity Clothing)
Another influential partnership within the cord blood marketplace is between the second largest cord blood bank in the world, ViaCord, and the world’s largest designer and retailer of women’s maternity clothing, Destination Maternity. Headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, Destination Maternity operates 2,008 retail locations, including 625 stores, largely under the trade names Destination Maternity, Motherhood Maternity, and A Pea in the Pod.1
ViaCord currently has exclusive rights to have its cord blood banking educational materials placed in the checkout bags of clients purchasing maternity items at Destination Maternity retail stores.
Neither ViaCord, nor Destination Maternity, have disclosed the start date of this agreement or its exact terms. However, there are online comments.
ViaCord does have an online landing page for a special enrollment offer for Destination Maternity clients. When enrolling for cord blood storage through ViaCord, Destination Maternity clients receive $50 off their next purchase from Destination Maternity, Motherhood Maternity, or A Pea in the Pod Maternity. The landing page can be viewed here: http://www.viacord.com/lp/dm/index_dm_50coup.aspx.2
In addition, there are posts dating back as early as 2010 with Destination Maternity shoppers referencing receiving their “$50 off their next purchase” gift card from ViaCord.3 ViaCord has also run at least one “Cord Blood Banking Informative Class” at a Destination Maternity location at the Town Center in Jacksonville, FL,4 and possibly at other locations.
While the terms of partnership between ViaCord and Destination Maternity are not openly discussed or promoted, having a relationship for distribution of educational materials through the largest retailer of women’s maternity clothing in the world is a powerful alliance for ViaCord to have secured.
3. Precious Cells Miracle and the Croydon Health Services NHS Trust
Precious Cells Miracle (PCM) is the charitable arm of stem cell biobanking group, Precious Cells Group (PCG). In September 2014, PCM announced it had partnered with the Croydon Health Services NHS Trust to process and store umbilical cord stem cells.
This is the first deal of its type for the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom, a deal targeted toward improving low levels of stem cell biobanking within the United Kingdom. PCM says this collaboration will significantly increase the number of stem cells banked from umbilical cord blood, which will contribute to the key UK target of storing 50,000 stem cell units by 2016.5
Specifically, the partnership entails having PCM provide the National Health System hospitals with the staff, technology, and required equipment to collect umbilical cord blood stem cells.
Within the partnership is a dual storage option, whereby parents can either privately store their newborn’s cord blood with Precious Cells Group (PCG) for a fee, or they can publicly donate their newborn’s cord blood for purposes of increasing the UK government’s public supply of cord blood units.
Precious Cells Group will also be paying the collection, processing, and storage fees for the publicly donated cord blood units, a major financial commitment and show of support for public cord blood banking within the UK.
Currently, Precious Cells Miracle is training 45 Croydon-based practitioners and medical centers in an effort to increase public awareness about both public and private cord blood storage options. The main focus of the program is to eliminate the percentage of parents that discard their newborn’s umbilical cord blood because they are unaware or uneducated about storage options to benefit their family and community.
The partnership, which PCM says will not involve any financial spending from the Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, will allow for an improved platform of maternity services being offered through hospitals involved in the partnership. As such, it is anticipated that the partnership could drive revenues of £2 million for the Trust over the term of the partnership.6
The theory is that the range and quality of the maternity services offered by hospitals influences which one expectant parents decide to use, and that an increasing number of expectant parents may choose Croydon Health Services NHS Trust maternity departments once cord blood collection becomes an option at these locations.
Furthermore, discussions are now underway which could add an additional fifteen NHS trusts to the alliance with Precious Cells Miracle, which is aiming to align with NHS maternity clinics nationwide to increase access to cord blood banking collection and storage options for parents throughout the UK. Its goal is to expand its reach to 90 NHS trusts in the future.7
As a for-profit stem cell biobank, Precious Cells Group has some financial incentive to grow cord blood banking awareness within their region, leveraging their charitable arm (Precious Cells Miracle) for this purpose. However, the alliance is a mutual win for all involved, because the UK has historically struggled with investing in the stem cell research and therapy sector.
Between 2004 and 2005 the UK government invested £25 million in stem cell research and therapy, but Precious Cells Miracle has stated that the targets set “were not achieved” and that the quantity of cord blood stem cell units available for transplant were “extremely low” and inadequate for the number of UK patients who require them for medical purposes.8
4. CarePilot and “Cord for Life” (Lifeforce Cryobank’s Cord Blood Storage Program)
In August 2014, CarePilot (Newport Beach, California, USA) announced a collaboration with the “Cord for Life” storage program offered by Lifeforce Cryobanks (Altamonte Spgs, Florida, USA). Through this partnership, CarePilot is offering significant discounts on the collection, processing, and storage of newborn umbilical cord blood.
Specifically, CarePilot is offering two, six, and 21-year storage plans at substantial discounts from the market rates offered by the “Cord for Life” program. Parents who elect for cord blood banking through this CarePilot-facilitated program can save as much as $1,250 on a long-term storage plan.9 To visit the landing page for this service offering, visit: https://carepilot.com/cord-for-life.10
CarePilot is a healthcare technology company that has stated its goal to be “empowering consumers with a tremendous tool to navigate the dynamically growing healthcare marketplace.”11
CarePilot has created an online scheduling tool that allows individual consumers to search for, schedule, and pay in advance for healthcare related appointments at deep discounts relative to market rates and without the need for involving health insurance policies or terms.
The company first rolled out its platform in California in 2014, after initiating a range of partnerships with local healthcare providers, clinics, and doctors. The participating medical providers have agreed to offer below market rate prices for their services during days or time-slots during which they receive lower average volumes of clients, or alternatively, during near-term appointment slot for which they have no pre-scheduled appointment in place.
By helping medical providers to more fully fill their schedules during suboptimal times and find last minute clients for unscheduled time slots, CarePilot is assisting with the profitability of its healthcare partners. By providing lower cost medical options to consumers who want to directly pay for their healthcare procedures at a known, pre-determined fee, without the involvement of healthcare policies or terms, CarePilot is also assisting with the financial well-being of its consumers. As such, CarePilot improves the “affordability, access, accountability and information management for the healthcare industry,” by allowing consumers to look for a specific specialist, procedure, or the best price or closest provider to their home.12
To further strengthen its ability to give consumers access to below market rate pricing for important medical procedures, such as cord blood banking, CarePilot announced its partnership with the “Cord for Life” storage program offered by Lifeforce Cryobanks in August 2014. While this partnership is currently small in scale, the innovative technology platform launched by CarePilot is empowering consumers to take control of their healthcare spending and could go global if it gets market traction. If this occurs, the “Cord for Life” storage program will substantially benefit from having a predictable, repeatable source of new clients.
CarePilot is also doing an effective job of marketing its cord blood banking partnership, as two Olympic gold medalists – Krisztina Fazekas Zur and her husband Rami Zur – recently chose to store their newborn’s cord blood by utilizing the service offered by CarePilot and “Cord for Life.”13
5. Cesca Therapeutics and UpState Public Cord Blood Bank
Cesca Therapeutics is a company focused on commercializing autologous cell-based therapies with regenerative medicine applications. When the company was created by the merger of Thermogenesis and TotipotentRX Corporation in February 2014,14 Cesca acquired the AutoXpress® (AXP®) technology developed by Thermogenesis that allows for automated processing of cord blood samples.
The New York Upstate Cord Blood Bank is a newly established $15 million public cord blood bank that will collect and store cord blood donated by families located in northern and central New York. It is one of the two cord blood banks in the state of New York and one of the 27 public cord blood banks in the United States.15 In late 2012, New York State Senator John DeFrancisco helped to secure a $15 million grant that would allow for the construction of the public cord blood bank in upstate New York.
The grant allocated funding to build a two-story building between 10,000 and 15,000 square feet that will be located on the community campus of SUNY Upstate Medical University based in Syracuse, New York, USA.16 The campus is also the site of a Regional Perinatal Center, which offers perinatal services to parents throughout the region of upstate New York. Initially scheduled to open in late 2014, the Upstate New York facility is now scheduled to open in 2015 due to construction-related delays.17
In October 2014, Cesca Therapeutics announced that it had reached an agreement with New York Upstate Cord Blood Bank to provide its cell storage and processing technologies to the cord blood bank. Cesca Therapeutics is known for its bioprocess efficiency systems that allow for automated processing of cord blood (as well as blood and bone marrow). It owns the rights to several key technologies that include its AutoXpress (AXP®) processing platform, XpressTrak® software, and the BioArchive® System which allows for both robotic automation and controlled-rate freezing.18
In summary, this partnership suggests that the Upstate Cord Blood Bank is investing heavily in automation and efficiency, as well as prioritizing methods to procure high stem cell counts for stored cord blood units. It also suggests that Cesca Therapeutics is continuing its dominance within the automated cord blood processing sector.
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1 Wikipedia, (2014). Destination Maternity. [online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Destination_Maternity [Accessed 31 Jul. 2015].
2 Viacord.com, (2014). $50 Coupon for Destination Maternity Moms | ViaCord. [online] Available at: http://www.viacord.com/lp/dm/index_dm_50coup.aspx [Accessed 3 Nov. 2014].
3 TheNest, (2010). Got my $50 Destination Maternity gift card from Viacord. [online] Available at: http://forums.thenest.com/discussion/4245194/got-my-50-destination-maternity-gift-card-from-viacord [Accessed 3 Nov. 2014].
4 Jacksonville, and Center), D. (2014). ViaCord: Cord Blood Banking Informative Class (Destination Maternity). [online] Eventful. Available at: http://jacksonville.eventful.com/events/viacord-cord-blood-b-/[email protected] [Accessed 3 Nov. 2014].
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6 Croydon Guardian, (2014). Stem cells to be extracted at Croydon hospital in an NHS first. [online] Available at: http://www.croydonguardian.co.uk/news/localnews/11505440.Stem_cells_to_be_extracted_at_Croydon_hospital_in_an_NHS_first/ [Accessed 28 Jul. 2015].
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8 Pharmafile.com, (2014). NHS stem cell research link up | Pharmafile. [online] Available at: http://www.pharmafile.com/news/194984/nhs-stem-cell-research-link [Accessed 3 31 Jul. 2015]
9 Busbyway.com, (2014). CarePilot Introduces Affordable Cord Blood Banking Services. [online] Available at: http://www.busbyway.com/2014/08/19/carepilot-introduces-affordable-cord-blood-banking-services/ [Accessed 31 Jul. 2015].
10 Carepilot.com, (2014). Carepilot. [online] Available at: https://carepilot.com/cord-for-life [Accessed 31 Jul. 2015].
11 Carepilot.com, (2014). Carepilot. [online] Available at: https://carepilot.com/about [Accessed 31 Jul. 2015]
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14 Reuters.com, (2014). Cesca Therapeutics Inc (KOOL.O) Key Developments | Reuters.com. [online] Available at: http://www.reuters.com/finance/stocks/KOOL.O/key-developments/article/2925203 [Accessed 29 Jul. 2015].
15 Cesca Therapeutics, Inc., C. (2014). Cesca Therapeutics Announces Agreement With New York Upstate Cord Blood Bank. [online] GlobeNewswire News Room. Available at: http://globenewswire.com/news-release/2014/10/13/672537/10102309/en/Cesca-Therapeutics-Announces-Agreement-With-New-York-Upstate-Cord-Blood-Bank.html [Accessed 25 Jul. 2015].
16 Upstate.edu, (2014). Upstate breaks ground for umbilical cord blood bank | SUNY Upstate Medical University. [online] Available at: http://www.upstate.edu/news/article.php?title=4730 [Accessed 31 Jul. 2015].
17 Syracuse.com, (2014). Syracuse cord blood bank delayed again as Upstate scales back project. [online] Available at: http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2014/09/syracuse_cord_blood_bank_delayed_again.html [Accessed 30 Jul. 2015].