The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends against private banking of cord blood for the general public. The cord blood and tissue banking services advertise aggressively the idea that storing a sample of tissue or blood will be a kind of “biological insurance,” which is “totally unrealistic,” said the late Dr. William Shearer, MD, PhD, and Founder and former Chief of the Allergy and Immunology Service at Texas Children’s Hospital here in Houston. The same year that the AAP released their public recommendation, stem cell expert Donna Chang was starting Hope Biosciences®, a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing stem cell based therapeutics.
“Our goal was to develop the most effective cell therapies on the planet. This meant that the quality and type of stem cells that were stored, mattered.
For instance, if the objective was to treat a future brain injury, then stem cells that are capable of restoring brain cells and reducing neuroinflammation are key to achieving that goal,” says Donna Chang. For Hope Biosciences®, the expansion into stem cell banking came upon realizing that the existing “stem cell banking” market (i.e. cord blood banking) involved the storage of biological material that would likely be useless. When Chang found out that she would become a mother of twins, she wanted to ensure her children had a more viable option.
“The idea of storing stem cells in case you need them is a good one, but we seem to forget that they have to be alive, healthy and functional in order to be useful. If we want to bank stem cells for our children that can be useful one day, then you have to process the cells in a way where they can be preserved and used repeatedly. What’s the use if what’s stored can only generate a single viable treatment? What if five treatments are needed? Then it completely defeats the purpose of banking.”
Chang was determined to give her children and all children a lifetime of potential stem cell treatments.
Stem Cells Are Not All Created Equal
After researching the cord blood and tissue banking industries, Chang realized its principle flaw—the type of stem cells banked. Cord blood contains hematopoietic stem cells, which can become blood cells or platelets. With this core limitation, the cord blood and tissue banking services could never offer her future children potential treatments for the degenerative diseases she knew they had a high probability of facing in their lives, such as Alzheimer’s, injuries, and other chronic degenerative conditions; so, she decided to take matters into her own hands and innovate. Today, her company—Hope Biosciences® in Sugar Land—offers banking services that store pure mesenchymal stem cells for newborns using their own placenta. This method allows bankers to additionally donate cord blood to a public bank, which Chang recommends. Hope Biosciences’ newborn stem cell banking processes are designed with clinical usage in mind and are unprecedented in the industry.
Designed for Use
Hope Biosciences specializes in mesenchymal stem cells because research shows they have higher potential for clinical application—that is, a scientific likelihood to benefit those suffering from a wide variety of diseases and conditions. In contrast, there were only seven autologous (one’s own) cord blood transplants performed in the U.S. between 2016 and 2020 according to the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research.
The chances of the use of cord blood banks for therapy is one out of several thousand; and on top of that, the conditions that one would benefit from a transplant of one’s own HSCs are highly rare. A 2017 study of the U.S. Public Cord Blood System shows that the clinical demand for cord blood units is declining.
Hope Biosciences’ patented stem cell banking process actually constitutes half of the manufacturing process to make a cell therapy. By the time pure mesenchymal stem cells are banked, they are designed to create a lifetime’s worth of treatments, guaranteed. Unlike hematopoietic stem cells from cord blood, mesenchymal stem cells have the potential to be helpful in practically any degenerative, autoimmune, and vascular condition.
As of today, mesenchymal stem cells manufactured by Hope Biosciences have been used in over 30 FDA authorized clinical protocols in over 25 conditions.
“All of the cells we’ve made for clinical trials came from banked stem cells. There’s no question that we’ve made history but the real impact will be shown in the future” says Chang.
The World’s First Newborn Mesenchymal Stem Cell Banker
Today, newborn banking is an integral part of Hope Bio’s operational efforts and is a cornerstone in the commercial side of science, but that wasn’t always the case. It all started with Chloe.
Chloe’s parents approached the question of whether or not to bank their newborn’s stem cells carefully and analytically. Samuel Kim works as an attorney in Silicon Valley, so he’s no stranger to extensive research. They wanted to bank knowing that Chloe would be guaranteed access to potential stem cell treatments in the future.
“We wanted to prepare her for everything. The future is unknown, and there are so many things that a parent can do. We looked into and researched stem cells, and it was a very easy decision for us. It was something that came very naturally. There were a lot of questions that when we did our research and came to Hope Bio, we found a lot of answers for.”
The Kim family and Hope Bio set out to define this process together, knowing that the possibility for failure was high. In order to make newborn stem cell banking a reality, the first question that Chang needed to answer was how to access the right stem cells from a newborn. With adults, a small sample of fat tissue is taken; then the mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are isolated, cultured, and preserved. Extracting fat from an infant is not an option. A different source was needed, and as Chang herself likes to point out, necessity is the mother of innovation. After considerable research, the team at Hope Bio developed a method to isolate newborn mesenchymal stem cells from the placental tissue. Following Chloe’s birth, the newly developed protocol was put into action for the first time. The isolation procedure was a success and on March 2, 2017, Chloe became the first newborn to have her stem cells banked with Hope Biosciences. Today, the company has successfully banked newborns from around the United States and beyond.
Chloe blazed the trail for newborn stem cell banking at Hope Bio and not long after, Chang’s own newborn twins followed in her footsteps. Newborn stem cell banking is the easiest, noninvasive way to provide children access to cell therapy, should it ever be needed. The Kim family initially reached out seeking a way of ensuring their own daughter’s future health, and, in turn, facilitated the creation of a service that now allows anyone to preserve their newborn’s pure mesenchymal stem cells in a Master Cell Bank designed for use. Hope Biosciences is the only clinical grade facility in the U.S. offering stem cell banking for newborns and adults. We are proud to offer Stem Cell Banking Kits nationwide, so whether you want to bank your own cells or give the gift of banking, don’t delay—your stem cells are never better than they are today.