A self-financed umbilical cord blood bank available to anyone who needs it is being created by a Swiss firm to end a severe shortage of the precious cords. They are a source of stem cells used in cancer treatments, notably leukemia, but about 98 percent of them are thrown away.

CordSavings, a firm located in Monthey, canton Valais near the border with Vaud, says it wants to “democratize” the collection and storage of umbilical cord stem cells in Switzerland. To do so, it is developing “a totally new ethical and community-based bio-bank in Valais to serve families and the public health authorities”.

The company wants a maximum number of samples to be stored in Switzerland. Only 4,000 allogeneic (volunteer donors) umbilical blood units are currently stored here. As a result it has to resort to very costly imports to meet the increasing demand. The units are also collected for personal or family purposes, known as autologous storage. Didier Nouziès, company founder and director, says “Cordsavings is a response to the battle between the public and the private sectors, between allogeneic and autologous collection, between general public interest and individual freedom.”

News agency ats says depositing umbilical blood units will cost parents CHF3,500, but part of the money is invested in a stem cells fund that will allow them to recover at least part of the cost.

The company explains how the new bank will work:

“Treating serious diseases : For its part, Valais doesn’t currently have an organized collection system. This means that the umbilical cord and placenta are discarded whereas they contain precious stem cells that can now treat serious diseases and serve the interests of the general public. The goal of Cordsavings SA, housed at the BioArk in Monthey, is to develop a mixed, self-financing bio-bank. The umbilical cord blood collected and stored in Valais for allogeneic purposes will be recorded on the national register. It will be made available to the public health authorities, thereby complying with ethical and community-based principles. The families, for their part, are able to store autologously and therefore exercise their freedom of choice, with exactly the same quality guarantees as in a public allogeneic bank.

The unique nature of Cordsavings : The major unique feature of Cordsavings consists in the bringing together of a mixed (public/private) bio-bank which is the only one of its kind with investment possibilities totally dedicated to the financing of allogeneic stem cell blood. Cordsavings has set itself the goal of helping to protect the individual by ensuring a community-based approach including between generations and offers itself to the medicine of the future.”

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