The world’s largest umbilical cord blood bank is to be set up in Mumbai, India through a $20 million investment from the South Korean biotech company, Histostem.

It aims to provide stem cells for transplant surgeons globally.

By creating similar banks in Mexico, Australia and Europe, and linking them, Histostem expects to offer histocompatibility leucocyte antigen matched stem cells for every patient around the world.

The umbilical cord blood stem cells will also be used for research into treatments for diabetes and spinal cord repair.

Histostem chose India because of its birth rate and its one-billion plus population is genetically diverse enough to match the genetic characteristics of people worldwide. The bank plans to collect over 400,000 units of umbilical cord blood (which is normally thrown away) in three years. The baby’s families pay a one-time fee of about $280 and will receive stem cells free if needed to treat blood disorders like thallasemia.

The Indian government will receive a 10% equity stake and two seats on the board of directors to ensure that government guidelines are followed.

Source: Nature Biotechnology 23, 1033 - 1034 (2005)