The global cord blood industry came into existence in the early 1990’s with the formation of several leading cord blood banks in the USA, followed by the establishment of cord blood banks across the globe. It has now been almost 40 years since it was first proposed that stem and progenitor cells were present in human cord blood, so the question is, what will the next 40 years hold for the cord blood banking industry?
The last few years have been marked by substantial change, as explored below.
Recent Changes within the Cord Blood Industry
The cord blood industry has four key themes impacting the industry, which include:
1. Diversification of Services
Cord blood banks are rapidly introducing new types of perinatal tissue stem cell storage. These services include the storage of:
- Umbilical cord tissue (Wharton’s Jelly)
- Placenta (both placental blood cells and tissue)
- And more
2. Pairing with Prenatal / Neonatal / Maternal Health Services
Repeatedly, the cord blood industry has seen companies pair prenatal, neonatal, and maternal health services with cord blood and tissue storage services.
Examples of this trend include:
- Natera, a leader in genetic testing, launched its EverCord Cord Blood & Tissue Banking Service
- ViaCord’s launched its Newborn Genetic Screening
- Human Longevity acquired LifebankUSA (owned by Celgene) to pair its Newborn Genome Sequencing Service with cord blood, cord tissue, and placental banking
- AMAG Pharmaceuticals acquired Cord Blood Registry (CBR) to bolster its portfolio of maternal health products
- Donor Egg Bank, a California Cryobank company offering frozen eggs for use in childbirth, offers free processing of its clients’ newborn cord blood through its sister company, FamilyCord
3. Industry Consolidation
Cord blood industry consolidation is another major theme going on worldwide. Examples of this trend include the largest Canadian bank (Insception) merging with the largest Australian bank (Cell Care Australia Pty Ltd.) and Cryoholdco buying up cord blood banks in Latin America.
Additionally, Sanpower Group has emerged the largest cord blood banking operator in China and SE Asia after buying China Cord Blood Corporation (CCBC) and Shandong Cord Blood Bank.
- Human Longevity acquired LifebankUSA from Celgene in January of 2016
- AlphaCord acquired LifeSource Cryobank in November 2015 (its 5th acquisition of smaller banks)
- FamilyCord acquired Southern Cord in April 2016
- Cryosite further bolstered CellCare’s dominance within the Australian market by selling cord blood and tissue banking assets to Cell Care Australia Pty Ltd.
4. Focus on Cord Blood Cell Expansion
The cord blood banking industry is also giving a great deal of attention to the pursuit of cord blood expansion, because the limited cell dose present within an unmanipulated cord blood unit restricts the efficacy of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) in adult patients. Fortunately, there has been substantial progress in this area.
Key strategies being explored for cord blood expansion include:
- NiCord – Gamida Cell (Jerusalem, Israel) is exploring cord blood stem cell expansion with NiCord, a small molecule mediated approach that works via epigenetic regulation induced by nicotinamide.
(Clinical Trial NCT01816230 – “Transplantation of NiCord®, Umbilical Cord Blood-derived Ex Vivo Expanded Cells, in Patients With HM“)
- Notch-1 Ligand – Nohla Therapeutics (Seattle, Washington) is exploring cord blood stem cell expansion using the Notch-1 ligand.
(Clinical Trial NCT01690520 – “Donor Umbilical Cord Blood Transplant With or Without Ex-vivo Expanded Cord Blood Progenitor Cells in Treating Patients With Acute Myeloid Leukemia, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, or Myelodysplastic Syndromes“)
- StemRegenin-1 (SR1) – SR1 is an aryl hydrocarbon receptor antagonist that expands CD34+ cells. Research in this area has been sponsored by Novartis Pharmaceuticals and led by Dr. John Wagner of the University of Minnesota Medical School.
(Clinical Trial NCT01474681 – “Safety and Tolerability of HSC835 in Patients With Hematological Malignancies“)
- UM171 – First identified by Canadian researchers at the University of Montreal, UM171 is a pyrimido-[4,5-b]-indole derivative that improves self-renewal of human hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs).
(Clinical Trial NCT02668315 – Expanded Cord Blood in Patients in Need of an Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplant)
- Enforced Fucosylation – Ex vivo cord blood manipulation via enforced fucosylation appears to accelerates neutrophil and platelet engraftment after transplantation.
(Clinical Trial NCT01471067 – “Cord Blood Fucosylation to Enhance Homing and Engraftment in Patients With Hematologic Malignancies“
- Dimethyl Prostaglandin E2 – This approach by Fate Therapeutics regulates the Wnt pathway in hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs), which has led the company to explore it for ex vivo expansion of umbilical cord blood stem cells.
(Clinical Trial NCT01527838 – “Single Treatment With FT1050 of an Ex-vivo Modulated Umbilical Cord Blood Unit“)
- MGTA-456 – MGTA-456 is a clinical-stage program in-licensed by Magenta from Novartis
, formerly HSC835. According to Magenta: “Early results published in Science demonstrated the ability of MGTA-456 to significantly increase the number of umbilical cord blood stem cells. Clinical results reported in Cell Stem Cell demonstrated that this approach yielded an increased expansion of stem cells.”
- Small Molecule Approach by Plasticell – Plasticell has developed a small-molecule driven, GMP-compliant method of expanding hematopoietic stem cells from cord blood, bone marrow and peripheral blood. The therapy has been part-funded by multiple programme grants from Innovate UK and developed in collaboration with NHS Blood and Transplant, the University of Oxford and the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult.