The UK Government has recently announced a £4 million investment in stem cell services. The funding will enable NHS Blood and Transplant and charity Anthony Nolan to work together to increase UK cord blood collection, and expand and improve adult stem cell donor registers. The partnership means stem cell donors and potential recipients can be matched more quickly than before, which could save one life every month.
Anthony Nolan chief executive Henny Braund said: 'The collaboration is great news. For a patient with a blood cancer waiting for a stem cell transplant, every minute counts and everything we can do to reduce that time is vital. Today's announcement marks a major step forward to achieving our goal of helping every patient who needs a stem cell transplant'.
The project includes three main parts. First, NHS Blood and Transplant and Anthony Nolan will consolidate their bone marrow registries. This will provide access to over 700,000 adult donors in the UK, speeding up donor searches and matches of potential donors and recipients.
Second, a contract with the Department of Health means Anthony Nolan will become the single contact point for all NHS transplant units looking for a suitably matched adult donor or stem cell unit. This will help to establish a 'fit panel' of 20,000 young adult donors, reducing the time it takes to find a suitable match for transplant.
Finally, £2 million will go toward increasing collection services at the five existing umbilical cord blood collection sites, along with the opening of a new collection facility. This means the NHS Cord Blood Bank, already one of the largest in the world, will grow from 17,000 to 35,000 processed and stored units.
Lynda Hamlyn, chief executive of NHS Blood and Transplant, said: 'This investment by the Government will help increase the number of stem cell samples collected and, equally important, reduce the waiting time for patients to find a suitable match. Both of these will help us in our mission to save more lives and improve the life chances of others'.