A new international consortium dedicated to the development of umbilical cord blood and adult stem cell research was launched in Paris yesterday (14 May 2008).
Novussanguis (new blood) has been set up in association with the Fondation Jérôme Lejeune in Paris and with the support of the President of the European Parliament, and the French Research Ministry. It begins operating with Euro 3 million raised through private donations, enabling it to fund 8 research projects in stroke, diabetes, heart attack and corneal and muscle damage.
The projects will be conducted in 15 laboratories across Ireland, France, Austria, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, the UK, the US and Korea.
Colin McGuckin, Professor of Regenerative Medicine at Newcastle University and President of Novussanguis said, “The time to act on stem cell research is now. Novussanguis has been created to provide financial support within a specific area of stem cell research that was sorely lacking [in funds].”
“Cord blood and adult stem cells have emerged as incredibly promising targets for the development of new therapies. They are already used to treat many diseases including leukemia and other rare blood disorders. This venture will bring the potential benefits of regenerative medicine closer to the families and individuals who need it most.”
The launch, at the Medical School of University Paris Descartes, was attended by over 200 international participants including government ministers, academics and representatives from biotechnology sector.
Another attendee, Michael LeBrocq of the private UK cord blood bank Virgin Healthbank said, “The establishment of Novussanguis is a critical acknowledgement from the scientific community of the importance of cord blood and adult stem cell research. Europe has been lagging in its support of cord blood banking and cord blood stem cell research.”
Cord blood and adult stem cells are considered attractive for cell therapy and regenerative medicine because of their differentiation and expansion potential. With over 130 million births per year worldwide, cord blood is particularly important source of readily available stem cells, while adult stem cells can be harvested from several human tissues such as brain, bone marrow, peripheral blood, liver, cornea, retina, and pancreas.
Currently, over 80 diseases are treatable with cord blood stem cells, mostly linked to the blood system, for example, leukaemia or the immune system, but also diseases affecting the bone marrow, nervous system, heart or metabolism.