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Celebrating 20 Years of Cord Blood Banking at Future Health Biobank

Future Health began in a single unit in the Faraday Building in Nottingham Science and Technology Park. This May, Future Health celebrates its 20th anniversary and has outgrown its small unit to comprise six subsidiaries in Europe and a global reach of 94 countries.

Future Health was born at a time when cord blood banking was still a relatively unknown concept. The majority of expectant parents were unaware of stem cells, never mind how much potential they had and the health benefits they held.

The ’90s was a pivotal decade in which the image of cord blood began to change from a discarded substance to something that could be used for valuable treatment that had been used successfully in several transplants. In 2002, its first year of operation, Future Health processed just eight units of cord blood. In 2022, Future Health is one of the top ten largest cord blood banks, storing over 200,000 stem cell samples for families around the world.

The success of Future Health was far from guaranteed. In the past 20 years, the field of cord blood banking and stem cell transplants has completely transformed, growing from a few experimental trials to an international industry with over 80 approved standard therapies.

Future Health has played a leading role in this evolution. The company conducts its own research and participates in a number of research projects in association with universities. Such projects include researching stem cells from cord blood, cord tissue, dental pulp, and adipose tissue, exploring improvements in processing and testing methods, and transforming stem cells into specialised cell types.

An early, defining moment in the history of the company and the industry came when a family who had stored their daughter’s cord blood stem cells with Future Health requested their release to help their 16-year-old son, Laith, recover from Fanconi anaemia.

The sample was shipped over 3,000 miles to the King Hussein Cancer Centre in Jordan, where the transplant successfully took place. This was the first time a cord blood sample stored with Future Health was released and used in treatment.

Cord blood banking is a form of insurance that hopefully never has to be used. However, should it need to be, the service needs to be convenient and accessible. Future Health has become a specialist in this area, acquiring more accreditations than nearly every other stem cell bank. The company has two storage facilities (Nottingham, UK, and Chȃtel, Switzerland), a physical presence in 40 countries, and has released 122 samples—more than any other UK stem cell bank—for use around the world, with no extra charge for their release or shipment.

In 2022, Future Health is set to open a new storage facility in Nottingham to meet increasing demand. On this special occasion in the history of the company, Chris Bond, the CEO of Future Health, comments on these exciting plans and on being a part of the past, present, and future of cord blood banking:

“We’re investing heavily in our facilities and infrastructure. We’ll be opening a new storage facility in Nottingham in 2022 and we’re expecting the delivery of millions of pounds worth of lab equipment over the next 12 months. We’re also investing in green technologies as part of the development of our environment and sustainability commitment.

“The last 20 years have been incredible for both stem cells and Future Health. To think in this period, umbilical cord stem cell transplants have been approved for 80+ standard therapies. Tens of thousands of stem cell transplants using cord blood have taken place and there is an extraordinary number of clinical trials involving cord blood, tissue, and dental pulp stem cells globally.

“Knowing we have played a part in that development and changing people’s lives is very humbling. We look forward to seeing what the next 20 years bring.”