'Embattled cord-blood bank must preserve supply'
By YONAH JEREMY BOB
The Tel Aviv District Court rules that private cord-blood bank Biocord must continue to preserve its blood bank.
The Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday issued an order compelling the private
cord-blood bank Biocord to continue to preserve its blood bank, as well as
permit access to potential buyers for at least an additional two weeks until the
blood can be transferred to another bank.
The hearing was yet another in
a series of hearings in a lawsuit regarding Biocord’s alleged mishandling of
donors’ cord-blood donations and noncompliance with Health Ministry
A cord-blood bank is a facility that stores umbilical cord
blood for future use.
Both private and public cord blood banks have
developed since the mid-to-late-1990s, in response to the development of
cord-blood transplants for treating diseases in the circulatory and immune
Public banks accept donations to be used for anyone in need and
the donated blood is also used for research purposes.
banking is more controversial, as it entails considerable fees and is premised
on being saved for the person who donated it as a baby, should that person later
Cord blood contains a special type of stem cells that can form
red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets.
Because of their
special properties, cord blood cells are used to treat blood disorders, cancers
and genetic diseases related to the immune and circulatory systems.
November 2012, a law was approved regulating the storage and handling of cord
Before it went into force, companies such as Biocord had operated
on an unregulated basis.
Soon after, the Health Ministry found that
Biocord was not in compliance with the criteria for storing and handling cord
blood, nor was it economically stable enough to maintain operations in the long
At the end of last month, the ministry ordered Biocord to stop
taking on new clients, and to inform its current clientele that it could not
As a result of the public controversy, Biocord lost
its contracts for maintaining the cord blood in regular locations, and was
forced to relocate it to a storage facility in Rishon Lezion.
In light of
the violations noted by the ministry and the transfer of the cord blood, the
ministry and the parents who donated their children’s cord blood to Biocord’s
bank have been concerned that it could be damaged.
A few weeks ago the
Tel Aviv District Court gave Biocord until Thursday’s hearing to report on the
condition of the cord blood it is storing, and to hand over a list of all of its
The court had also ruled that an immediate solution should be
found for safe and permanent storage of the cord blood, even if the solution
must be carried out before all of the financial disputes are worked out. This
was in order to secure the cord blood, and so the court could reach a final
decision on what should be done with it, as well as what steps ought to be taken
generally regarding the embattled company.
To move ahead with a solution
regarding storage, even before all the financial issues were ironed out, was
notable in that much of the hearing revolved around the fight over the financial
condition of the company, and potential buyers for the rights to maintain the
Leading up to Thursday’s hearing, Biocord had played
hardball, demanding the group of parents who joined the Health Ministry in the
lawsuit against Biocord be compelled to pay additional funds to maintain the
Biocord implied that without these additional funds, it could
not pay its bills for maintaining proper storage until a new bankbuyer was
Echoing the parents' attorney that this issue was “not just
financial” but also about “blood, something living,” the court ignored Biocord’s
request and instead essentially ordered those responsible for the cord blood’s
storage to continue storing it properly for a minimum additional two weeks,
regardless of cost.
The Health Ministry and the parents’ attorneys also
complained that Biocord was not cooperating fully with transferring information
necessary for other banks to evaluate their ability to receive the cord blood.
Biocord personnel allegedly physically prevented representatives of other banks
from obtaining and checking cord blood samples.
The court ordered Biocord
to provide potential new bank’s representatives with whatever access was
necessary to check the quality of the blood and the feasibility of receiving
Next, it gave Biocord an extra push towards moving the process
forward and ruled that it was to be updated on March 7.
say the impact of cord blood is still unproven, and criticize the private
cord blood banks, particularly for their aggressive marketing.