Qatar stem cell program set to get a boost
Saturday, 05 January 2013
DOHA: Discussions are in an advanced stage for the launch of a national cord blood stem cell collection and storage program for the Qatari community, Virgin Health Bank’s chief executive officer Remi Corlin said.
The proposed national program would give all Qatari parents the opportunity to donate their baby’s cord blood units to a community bank.
"Those donated units would then be made available to support the development of stem cell transplantation in the country and meet the need for ethnically matched units," Corlin told the Qatari English daily (Gulf Times).
Virgin Health Bank is preparing for an expansion in its activities by adding additional human resources and has already brought on board a senior consultant haematologist as well as donor educators.
"This shows our confidence in the way that our business will develop in 2013," the CEO said.
Virgin Health Bank, the only licensed establishment of its kind in Qatar, is actively engaged in the development of a national program with a number of key stakeholders including the Supreme Council of Health, commercial director Andrew Glen said.
Virgin Health Bank has been collecting transplant quality cord blood cells for families in Qatar since September 2009. Initially it used its UK facilities for processing and storage.
"We started banking at our state-of-the-art stem cell processing and cryogenic storage facility at Qatar Science and Technology Park in Doha in August 2011," Glen said.
Corlin pointed out that Virgin Health Bank already has a very successful family program with significant penetration and level of acceptance across the Qatari community.
"Interestingly, the vast majority of participants in our family program are Qataris which illustrates that our awareness-building activities have worked well with local families."
Virgin Health Bank is currently collaborating with all maternity hospitals in Doha and expects to commence operations with Hamad Medical Corporation’s Al Khor Hospital by February and eventually add the new Wakra Hospital to the network.
"HMC’s Women’s Hospital in Doha accounts for the majority of births in Qatar, more than 16,000, out of which over 40% are Qataris," Glen said, asserting that there is both a great opportunity and a clinical need to build a bank of donated Arab cord blood units.
"Our operational model which includes close relationships with the hospitals and state-of-the-art processing is working extremely well. Important to the success of transplants are the number of cells used and their viability and we have a proven track record for producing high quality stem cell units," Glen added. (QNA)