Almost a year after a bill passed the Indiana Legislature establishing a state-run cord blood bank, little progress has been made.
Cord blood is blood taken from umbilical cords. It contains a special kind of stem cell and is used to treat diseases like leukemia and lymphoma.
Indiana currently has a private cord blood bank, but collection and storage fees of over $1,000 per vial prevent many from using the service. That is one of the reasons State Rep. Peggy Welch (D-Bloomington), wrote a bill calling for a public cord blood bank, which would be free to those who want to donate.
Welch, who works as a cancer nurse, said most cord blood is typically thrown away.
“Why not try to use it to save lives?” Welch said. “There’s currently in Indiana private cord blood banking. So if you have an extra $1,000 laying around and $100 a year [for storage fees], you can have stored the umbilical cord blood from the birth of your child.”
Welch said a public bank would ensure those looking for cord blood will be able to find it at lower costs. Her bill created a non-profit organization to oversee the establishment of the bank. But Governor Mitch Daniels has yet to appoint members to that organization’s board, which she said has delayed the bank’s progress.
“The Governor has been slow in making the appointments to this not-for-profit organization, the overseeing board,” she said. “But now that the election is over, we hope he steps that back up. I will be meeting with him hopefully soon to be talking to him about that.”
Once Governor Daniels fills out the board, Welch said they’ll then hire a private company to oversee the bank’s management. Welch said the bank’s start-up costs could be a hurdle, but she also envisions the facility as an economic development tool.
She said medical research companies will likely move to Indiana to work near the bank. For every ten specimens of cord blood that are collected, only one or two are good enough to be used in medical procedures. But the rest can be used for medical research. And Welch said reimbursement from insurance companies and purchases by research outfits will help offset the state’s investment.
She said the bank could be self-sustaining within two to three years.
“It’s just that it takes awhile to get ‘er cranked up. We aren’t requiring much money, but it will require a little bit of money to kind of jump start it,” Welch said. “And obviously this isn’t a really good time to be asking for money from the state.”
Welch’s bill also calls for an educational initiative to train more medical personnel in the process of collecting cord blood, as well as a program to inform parents on the benefits of donating specimens to a bank.