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The Starr Foundation has awarded a $5,000,000 grant to New York Blood Center's National Cord Blood Program (NCBP). Combined with a $2,000,000 grant that was awarded in August 2000, the Starr Foundation has provided $7,000,000 to support this important life-saving initiative. In 1993, the New York Blood Center established the world's first and largest public cord blood bank. The original grant allowed the NCBP to begin fulfilling its goal of expanding its inventory to 75,000 units.

This latest grant will be used to increase the size and quality of the search inventory. This will provide well matched grafts with sufficient cell doses to more than 80% of patients in the U.S. who must have a bone marrow transplant. These developments bring hope for patients with lethal diseases who need stem cells transplants for blood and immune system diseases.

The NCBP now has an inventory of approximately 18,000 units and the new grant will enable a quantum enhancement of the expansion: the NCBP is thrilled to announce the opening of two new collection sites in 2003, increasing these sites to a total of six. The NCBP currently operates collection facilities at Brooklyn Hospital, North Shore University Hospital, New York Presbyterian Hospital and Inova Hospital in Fairfax, VA. The two new collection sites, to be opened with support from the Starr Foundation grant, are at the Obstetrics of Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, NY and University Hospitals in Cleveland, OH.

"Through the generosity of the Starr Foundation the NCBP will be able to expand its cord blood inventory and will be better able to meet the needs of patients who require cord blood transplants in order to survive," said Dr. Pablo Rubinstein, who, with Dr. Cladd Stevens, heads the National Cord Blood Program. Recent analyses, performed in cooperation with the International Bone Marrow Registry (IBMTR), indicate that the overall survival of young patients after unrelated cord blood transplants is no different to that of patients receiving unrelated bone marrow. In fact, it may be superior with larger and well-matched cord blood grafts. "Cord blood transplants are the wave of the future", said Florence A. Davis, President of The Starr Foundation. "We are pleased to support this important program at the New York Blood Center."

The NCBP has since collaborated with transplant physicians at 90 clinical centers in the US and 74 transplant centers in 26 other countries. More than 1,350 patients throughout the world have been transplanted with NCBP-provided grafts, almost half of the world's known transplants of unrelated cord blood.

Cord blood has several useful advantages over traditonal bone marrow transplants as a source of stem cells. Among them:

  • There are large numbers of potential donors.
  • Cord blood can only be collected after the birth without risk to the donors. No fetal tissues or cells are involved that might raise ethical questions.
  • Bone marrow harvesting, in contrast, requires donors to undergo a surgical procedure under general anesthesia, and is not without risk.
  • Stored cord blood is immediately available - cord blood transplants can be accomplished within a week of the request. Bone marrow from unrelated donors usually requires months to select, find and confirm the eligibility of potential donors.
  • Many bone marrow donors cease being able or willing to donate with a relatively high probability, and the registry must replace the members lost to attrition.
  • Cord blood is more consistently free of the latent forms of some common viral infections than is the bone marrow from adult donors (some of these latent infections are due to viruses that can be lethal to bone marrow recipients).
  • Cord blood does not have to be as closely matched to a recipient's tissue as bone marrow. An unrelated bone marrow transplant requires that donor and recipient be almost perfectly matched for each of the six genetic traits (HLA antigens) in their tissue types.

As one of the largest independent blood collection and distribution organizations in the country, New York Blood Center provides more than one million units of blood and blood products annually and serves some 200 hospitals and 20 million people in the greater metropolitan area. Its Lindsley F. Kimball Research Institute is one of the world's leading centers for research in blood and blood-related diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis. The concentration of resources, experts and experience in organizing large-scale public health efforts provides the synergy that makes new ideas emerge and drive powerful initiatives such as the National Cord Blood Program. The New York Blood Center continues its 40-year-old commitment to biomedical research, medical excellence and progressive service to the community in the broad area of Transfusion Sciences.

The Starr Foundation was established in 1955 by Cornelius Vander Starr, an insurance entrepreneur who founded the American International family of insurance and financial services companies, now known as American International Group, Inc. (NYSE:AIG). Mr. Starr, a pioneer of globalization, set up his first insurance venture in Shanghai in 1919. He died in 1968 at the age of 76, leaving his estate to the Foundation. The Starr Foundation with assets of $3 billion is one of the largest private foundations in the United States. It makes grants in a number of areas, including education, medicine and healthcare, public policy, human needs, culture and the environment.

 

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Mitch Santana and his brother, Brad, and parents, Minnie and Thomas with Drs. Rubinstein and Stevens