Newborn Umbilical Cord Blood Initiative Raises Match to Total $500,000

By Nate Hinkel

The Newborn Umbilical Cord Blood Initiative has successfully raised $250,000 to match a guaranteed $250,000 given by an anonymous donor more than a year ago, ensuring the necessary equipment and training to establish the cord blood banking network.

“This is a big step in allowing us to implement a program with enormous healing and life-saving potential,” said Michele Fox, M.D., a UAMS professor of pathology and director of Cell Therapy and Transfusion Medicine. “Cells harvested from the umbilical cord immediately following the birth of a healthy child are used to transplant adult and pediatric cancer patients and have shown tremendous promise for regenerating diseased or injured organs, including heart muscle, bone and spinal cord tissue.”

Gov. Mike Beebe signed into law in 2007 a unanimously approved measure to allow Arkansas to begin storing and researching potentially life-saving blood cells harvested from umbilical cords following the birth of healthy children. The law also authorized the creation of the Arkansas Commission for the Newborn Umbilical Cord Blood Initiative, an 11-member committee to which Fox acts as a consultant, that is charged with educating pregnant mothers and the public about the benefits of donating umbilical cord blood. The Commission will establish and oversee a statewide network that will contribute to a central bank that will house the cord blood cells. Once the network is established, Arkansas will be connected to a national and international network of cord blood banks that supply cells for transplants to adults and children with cancer all over the world. UAMS, which has one of the largest adult blood cell transplant centers in the country, will serve as the statewide network’s main storage site.

“We couldn’t be more pleased by the generosity of Arkansans who recognize the need and benefits of a groundbreaking program like this,” said Tim Clark, an Arkansas businessman whom Gov. Beebe appointed chairman of the Arkansas Commission for the Newborn Umbilical Cord Blood Initiative. “Thanks to the generosity people have shown, we can move forward with this life-saving effort.”

Fox said the $500,000 will go towards purchasing equipment, such as the custom-built storage tanks, needed to establish and house the cord blood banking network. A statewide training program for obstetricians will also be implemented so they can begin collecting cord blood donations.

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has 2,538 students and 733 medical residents. Its centers of excellence include the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. It is one of the state’s largest public employers with about 9,600 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $5 billion a year. Visit