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AboutBank Director: Dr. Saranya Narayan
Jeevan (also known as BeTheCure.in) is the first purely public cord blood bank set up in India, funded by a tie-up with the state of Tamil Nadu, that enables quick and affordable (free for the poor) access to matching stem cells from donated umbilical cord blood for the life-saving treatment of Indians with blood cancers, thalassaemia, and other blood disorders.
The parent organization Jeevan Blood Bank has been one of India's most respected institutions in the domain of transfusion medicine. Established in 1995, Jeevan was a pioneer in setting up safe and international standard practices in blood donation, processes and distribution. Jeevan was the first blood bank in India to be certified to ISO standards and accredited to NABH standards. Unfortunately, in 2017 Jeevan shut down their blood bank due to rising competition from multiple low-cost banks. However, their stem cell activities continue.
Helmed by Jeevan founders Dr. P. Srinivasan and Dr. Saranya Narayan, Jeevan began banking stem cells in Nov. 2008. With help from corporate sponsors, philanthropists and community support, the blood bank began storing stem cells from donated cord blood.
A public cord blood bank is a not-for-profit which will supply matching cord blood for people in need. Jeevan calculates that for patients in India to have a 70% chance of finding a match, a public cord blood bank needs to collect and hold 30,000 units of cord blood. The cost of processing and storing a single unit of cord blood is Rs.36,000 ($600). At present, many Indian patients search international registries of stem cell donors, with the probability of success at only 10%.
Jeevan Stem Cell Bank received a grant of Rs. 9 crore ($1.5 million) from the state government of Tamil Nadu in April 2013. The grant should enable them to process 3,000 units of cord blood within three years.
Under the terms of the state tie-up, Jeevan is required to release 75% of the units free of cost to patients referred by government hospitals. All patients covered under the Chief Minister's Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme can receive these units. Jeevan can release the remaining 25% of the units on a commercial basis in the following tiers: Patients who are residents of Tamil Nadu and have an annual income between Rs. 5 lakh and Rs. 10 lakh ($8,300-$16,600) will be charged Rs. 50,000 ($830) for a transplant unit. Those with income over Rs. 10 lakh or non-residents of Tamil Nadu can access the units at Rs. 2 lakh ($3,300). This financing split should ensure that the project remains financially viable even after the state funding is depleted.
The Jeevan stem cell bank will release cord blood units on a first-come-first-served basis, and the readiness of a patient for transplantation will be the main consideration. All factors being equal, priority will be given to those eligible for free units.
Dr. Revathi Raj, paediatric haemato-oncologist at Apollo Hospitals, was quoted in The Hindu newspaper praising the plan: "This is the first government initiative in India that promotes public cord blood banks, and makes stem cell units affordable. More lives will certainly be saved." Jeevan has also tied up with Fernandez Hospital, Hyderabad, which collects an average of 150 cord blood donations every month.
The inventory of Jeevan public cord blood bank was 1568 by summer 2014. Jeevan received another loan of $2.56 million from a World Bank aided fund to scale up the inventory by another 5,000 units over the course of 2015. By early 2018, Jeevan’s inventory was 6438 donated cord blood units. This is the largest public cord blood inventory in South Asia.
Due to paucity of funds, Jeevan has temporarily stopped accepting cord blood donations.