Established in 2004, LifeCell is India’s leading provider of preventive healthcare services, including stem cell banking and diagnostic testing. Its BabyCord program is one of the world’s largest umbilical cord blood banks, with 50,000+ parents preserving newborn stem cells each year and 270,000 units cryopreserved.
Recently, I had the honor of interviewing Mr. Mayur Abhaya Srisrimal, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of LifeCell. Mr. Abhaya has led LifeCell since 2008 and been instrumental in expanding its stem cell storage services across India with its BabyCord program. Under his leadership, LifeCell also raised growth capital from Helion Ventures and extended its preventive diagnostic services by launching BabyShield, a program targeted at reducing the infant mortality ratio.
In this interview, we discuss LifeCell’s stem cell banking program, the company’s rapid growth, and cord blood market dynamics within India.
Interview with Mayur Abhaya, CEO & MD of LifeCell
Cade Hildreth: What year was LifeCell founded?
Mayur Srisrimal: LifeCell was founded in 2004, making it India’s first private stem cell bank. It remains the largest stem cell bank in in the country today. India currently has a population of 1.34 billion people and a fertility rate of 2.4 births per woman, making it important to provide high-quality stem cell banking services for newborns.
Cade Hildreth: What is your affiliation with Cryo-Cell International?
Mayur Srisrimal: LifeCell has technological collaboration with USA Cryo-Cell International, by which it obtained knowledge transfer that allowed us to initiate our stem cell banking operations within India.
Royalties are paid to USA CryoCell on per sample basis.
Cade Hildreth: Where do you have laboratories and accreditations do they have?
Mayur Srisrimal: LifeCell has a central processing facility at Chennai and cryostorage facilities at two locations in Chennai and Gurgaon. Our facilities have received several accreditations from international organisations, including the:
- American Association of Blood Banks (AABB)
- College of American Pathologists (CAP)
- National Accreditation Board for Testing & Calibration Laboratories (NABL)
- World Health Organization Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) for Blood Establishments
- ISMS (Information Security Management System) Accreditation
We also have ISO 9001:2008 certification for collection, testing, processing, storage and release of human umbilical cord blood, cord tissue and menstrual fluid stem cells.
Cade Hildreth: What types of stem cells (or tissues) do you store?
Mayur Srisrimal: We store umbilical cord blood, cord tissue, and menstrual fluid stem cells.
Cade Hildreth: How many cord blood and cord tissue units has LifeCell stored to date?
Mayur Srisrimal: We have 270,000 parents who have cryopreserved their baby’s cord blood and cord tissue to date.
Cade Hildreth: How what technology or automated system do you use to process cord blood units?
Mayur Srisrimal: LifeCell uses a proprietary “Personalised Processing” technique that ensures the highest recovery rate of hematopoietic stem cells (>80%) with the lowest red cell reduction (<5%). LifeCell’s proprietary process personalized for cord blood of various volumes ensures that we achieve a median recovery of ~80%, which is higher than other automated techniques such as the AXP or Sepax2. LifeCell’s proprietary process for red cell reduction also ensures that we obtain >95% reduction in red cells from the original levels, about 10% higher than other automated techniques.
Importantly only 0.1% of the samples have haematocrit values >40% at LifeCell versus others such as 1.2% reported for AXP and 8.9%reported for Sepax2 (see below). We reported this cord blood processing data at the 22nd International Society for Cellular Therapy (ISCT) meeting held in Singapore in May 2016 (Analysis of 36489 Samples).
Cade Hildreth: What other private cord blood banks are active within India? What publi cord blood banks are there in India?
Mayur Srisrimal: There are 14 private and public cord blood banks in India. Some of the private cord blood banks are CryoSave, Cryoviva, Cordlife, Reliance Life Sciences, BabyCell, Reelife, and others. LifeCell was the first private stem cell bank in India.
Jeevan is a public cord blood bank.
StemCyte offers both public and private storage of cord blood, making it a hybrid bank.
Cade Hildreth: Approximately how many births occur annually in India?
Mayur Srisrimal: Currently, approximately 26 million births occur every year in India.
Cade Hildreth: That is a high birth rate, which makes your services particularly importance. How much of the market share do you control within India?
Mayur Srisrimal: Although there is no industry publication to verify this, our internal estimates put LifeCell’s volume of the market share at approximately 60% in India.
Cade Hildreth: Is the market for cord blood banking market in India growing, declining, or flat?
Mayur Srisrimal: The cord blood industry in India has been growing rapidly in the last few years, with both a substantial increase in awareness among parents and the introduction of affordable pricing plans. LifeCell’s storage volume has grown 3 times (300%) over the last four years.
Also, there has been a recent shift toward hybrid banking models, whereby benefits of storage extend to not just the baby and sibling, but also to parents and grandparents, providing coverage against all treatable stem cell conditions (own cells + donor cells). This is in contrast to private cord blood banking, which can only cover conditions treatable using one’s own cells. This has substantially expanded the benefits of cord blood storage and should facilitate continued growth for the industry.
There have also been interesting clinical developments by global transplant centers, including Haplo-Cord Transplants and Cord Blood Expansion programs, which are providing medical support for the industry.
Cade Hildreth: How can people learn more about LifeCell or use your cord blood banking services?
LifeCell is present across 175 centres in India and serves over 5,000 hospitals. Our website www.lifecell.in is comprehensive, allowing people to learn more about our services and capabilities.