U.S. Senate Panel Approves Stem Cell Act Reauthorization

Law would allocate $23 million per year for cord blood inventory 

A U.S. Senate committee with health legislation jurisdiction has unanimously approved a bill that authorizes $23 million per year for cord blood inventory growth and diversity. The bill, renewing the Stem Cell Act for five more years, moves next to the full Senate for consideration. 

Spending levels in the bill are the same as approved by the House of Representatives in a bipartisan vote in September. CBA has worked extensively with members of Congress and testified in support of the legislation that totals $115 million over five years for the National Cord Blood Inventory (NCBI) and $150 million in that same period for bone marrow transplant programs. 

S. 2282, “Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Reauthorization Act of 2015,” was introduced in November and unanimously approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Both the Senate bill and the previously passed House bill extend the Stem Cell Act through 2020, providing federally funded grants to public cord blood banks to assist in collecting diverse cord blood units that are listed on the Be The Match registry administered by the National Marrow Donor Program.  

622,000 Units 

Over the past 30 years, the Be The Match registry has grown to include 11 million adult volunteer bone marrow donors and 193,000 donated cord blood units. Through international relationships with other registries, physicians and patients worldwide have access to 24.5 million potential donors and 622,000 cord blood units. 

The bipartisan Senate bill was introduced by Sen. Orin Hatch (R-Utah), along with Senators Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) In a statement on behalf of the bill’s sponsors, Senator Hatch said that cord blood research “is showing potential for use in innovative fields of cellular therapy and regenerative medicine. Vaccines derived from cord blood to use against viruses and certain types of cancers are currently in early trials. Research has also indicated that cord blood could be used to treat conditions for which few treatments are available, such as stroke, cerebral palsy, hearing loss, autism and traumatic brain injury. 

“As the inventory continues to grow, the diverse units within the NCBI will serve an increasing number of patients who have difficulty obtaining cells from well-matched adult donors,” he said. 

Thanks CBA 

In the bill’s introduction, Senator Hatch thanked CBA and its president, Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, for “helping us develop meaningful legislation that will help cord blood banks do their jobs. I also owe gratitude for the input and guidance on this reauthorization bill that my staff and I received from Mike Boo and Dr. Jeffrey Chell with the National Marrow Donor Program, NMDP.” 

He summarized that “passage of this legislation will preserve the commitment that the Congress made three decades ago to help patients with blood cancers and other life-threatening diseases by helping to increase access to life-saving transplants. It will also open doors to new discoveries within the fields of cellular therapy and regenerative medicine.” 

A long-time friend of the cord blood community, Senator Hatch spoke of his commitment to cord blood inventory growth and diversity in a message delivered by video at a CBA session at the recent International Cord Blood Symposium. View the video here.