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28 Apr 2011


Health & Consumers

On average 11.7% of pregnant women are willing to store their child’s
cord blood stem cells in a private bank, according to a study that was published in the recognized Journal
Transfusion1 and that analyzed attitudes towards cord blood storage in 5 EU countries. In practice in Europe
less than 1% of stem cells at birth are stored in private banks. Research conducted by Prof. Dr. Zygmunt Pojda,
Director of the tissue engineering department and public stem cell bank at the Center of Oncology Maria
Skłodowska-Curie Memorial Institute (Poland), has shown that the number of transplantations with umbilical
cord blood has exceeded 19 000, which is about 30% of all the transplantations with hematopoietic cells.

Autologous transplantations have been performed more rarely i.e. till now data concerning 400 – 500 cases
have been collected.
These findings are in contrast with a recent discussion in the European Parliament where representatives of
French and Italian public stem cell banks were calling upon a restriction or ban of private cord blood banks.
Italian parents who want to store cord blood privately for their own family can only apply for such medical
service at a bank located outside Italy, and under certain conditions. Neither can French parents store in a
private bank based in France since no such banks have been accredited so far. In addition, exportation of their
child’s cord blood is partially limited through a difficult and extensive export authorization procedure that
must be followed. These are the only two countries in Europe that have transposed the European legislation in
such discriminating way that future parents are obliged to seek solutions for private storage abroad.

Restrictions in parents’ access to private cord blood storage are justified in France and Italy on solidarity and
lack of scientific evidence grounds but in reality is only favoring public state monopolies with limited service
offering to parents and possible future parents.
“In view of this discussion we strongly encourage decision-makers to take into account updated evidence
coming from a variety of sources and medical branches during an open and inclusive debate”, concludes Dr.
Eberhard Lampeter, President of the not-for-profit association Cord Blood Europe. Cord Blood Europe is
concerned that the discussion which took place in the European Parliament left little or no scope for the
expression of private sector’s position and that all three MEPs who hosted this discussion were from Italy and
from one single political group. The interests of parents who prefer private storage cannot be simply ignored
and can be complementary to voluntary donation principles currently applied in Europe.

Moreover, the views expressed by some MEPs present at the discussion have been misleadingly reported in a
press release subsequently published by the Italian federation ADOCES, whose President is a member of the
ad hoc coalition.

“I was very surprised to read that I shared the views of the coalition during the discussion. This declaration is
misleading”, says MEP Miroslav Mikolášik. “I do not think that public storage should be the only way to go
about. As research is progressing fast and new evidence justifying both autologous and allogeneic applications
appears, the right balance between public and private initiative has to be found. To take just one example – in
Slovakia – my country - Eurocord, which represents public initiative, cooperates with the Cord Blood Center,
which is a private bank. I am confident that other collaboration models and opportunities can be found
between the two sectors”, concludes MEP Mikolášik.

Cord Blood Europe has informed the Chair of the European Parliament Committee for Public Health,
Environment and Food Safety, MEP Jo Leinen, about the very biased views and unfair oversight of some
stakeholders and some opinions expressed. “We call upon Members of the European Parliament to hold a
public debate in full transparency and according to the formal proceedings of a Committee hearing”, says Dr.
Eberhard Lampeter, President of Cord Blood Europe. “The discussion should not be about banning private
initiative to favor state monopolies, but about how to be able to get sufficient and effective means to treat
future patients. This can only be successfully done through public-private collaboration. Some public banks in
the USA and EU have already started to offer private storage services just like the private banks. On the other
hand, some private banks also have today public storage programmes. This shows the added value of storage
for potential use within the family, i.e. for autologous and related allogeneic uses. I wish to remind that private
banks store for both potential autologous and related allogeneic uses”, adds Dr. Lampeter.

Cord Blood Europe has started a dialogue with European legislators to call upon an assessment of the current
transposition of European directives in view of equal access to healthcare services for European citizens.

Cord Blood Europe A.I.S.B.L. (not-for-profit) is the European Association of Family Cord Blood Banks and has its
representation offices in Brussels. Seven leading stem cell storage companies from various European countries
– Crioestaminal (Portugal), Cryo-Save (The Netherlands), Future Health Biobank (United Kingdom), Polish Stem
Cell Bank (Poland), StemCare (Denmark), Swiss Stem Cells Bank (Switzerland) and VITA 34 (Germany) – have
established this professional association in January 2009.

Cord Blood Europe provides a platform of co-operation and exchange of best practices in the field of stem cell
storage and regenerative medicine. The association members - active in all EU and EFTA countries - encourage
and contribute to a harmonized regulatory framework of European policies on cells and tissues, and comply
with the highest levels of safety and quality in their laboratories. The members of Cord Blood Europe believe
that parents should receive objective information about and have free choice between the four options
currently existing regarding cord blood at birth: public donation, family storage, donation for research and

For more information, please contact:
Eberhard Lampeter, President P: + 49 341 48 79 20

Peter Tulkens, Secretary General P: + 32 477 19 80 67


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