House OK’s Bipartisan Stem Cell Bill; Smith Legislation Authorizes $265M over Five Years for Bone Marrow, Cord Blood Programs

Editor’s note. The following was distributed Tuesday by the office of Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ).

ChrisSmith27On the very first day of the fall session, the House took up and passed vital legislation authored by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) to continue America’s bone marrow and cord blood donor registry.

Sponsored by Smith with lead co-sponsor Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA), the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Reauthorization Act of 2015, H.R. 2820, ensures that two collaborative programs that support treatment and therapies derived from adult stem cell lines will not expire at the end of the federal fiscal year, Sept. 30.

Under the legislation, the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program will be authorized for five years at $30 million annually, while the National Cord Blood Inventory is authorized at $23 million annually for a five-year period. Smith authored the original law (The Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005—P.L. 109-129) that created the national cord blood program and expanded the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program.

“Breathtaking scientific breakthroughs have turned medical waste—post birth placentas and umbilical cord blood –into medical miracles treating more than 70 diseases including leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell anemia,” said Smith. “Not only has God in His wisdom and goodness created a placenta and umbilical cord to nurture and protect the precious life of an unborn child, but now we know that another gift awaits us immediately after birth. Something very special is left behind—cord blood that is teeming with lifesaving stem cells.”

Click here to read Smith’s floor statement.

The Senate must now take up the House bill before the September 30 deadline.

First passed in 2005, the original legislation established a nationwide integrated bone marrow and cord blood stem cell transplantation program. Stem cells derived from cord blood and bone marrow have been used successfully to treat tens of thousands of patients with such diseases as leukemia and sickle cell anemia, and genetic disorders. The enactment of H.R. 2820 will continue to build these donor networks, thus enabling more people to have access to these lifesaving treatments.

Smith said that with the House taking such quick action to approve the bill, it is demonstrating a commitment to support lifesaving treatment.

“It remains one of the best kept secrets in America that umbilical cord blood stem cells and adult stem cells in general are curing people of a myriad of terrible conditions and diseases in adults as well as children. Cord blood, what was once seen as medical waste, is now making miracles,” Smith said.

Smith, who is also the founding co-chair of the Autism Caucus said the bill “will ensure that thousands of present-day and future patients benefit from the exciting field of regenerative medicine.” At a House hearing on the bill earlier this summer Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg of Duke University testified that she and others are developing uses for cord blood to treat acquired brain disorders.

“Over the past six years” she said “we have initiated trials of autologous (the patient’s own) cord blood in babies with birth asphyxia, cerebral palsy, hearing loss and autism.”

The bill has the support of the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), as well as the Cord Blood Association and the Robertson Clinical and Translational Cell Therapy program at Duke University.

“Americans willing to volunteer are the heart of the success of this program,” Smith said. “In reauthorizing it we are grateful for the adult donors willing to provide bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells, as well as mothers who donate their babies’ cord blood through public cord blood banks.”

There are 13 public banks contracted through NCBI, including the New Jersey Cord Blood Bank, which collects cord blood from 5 participating hospitals.

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) estimates that every year about 12,600 people depend on the programs made available by this law to find an unrelated adult marrow donor or cord blood unit for treatment.