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For parents seeking cord blood stored with Cryo-Save in Europe
As a public service to reach any parents that are impacted, we are posting this announcement that most of the clients of Cryo-Save in Europe can now find their children’s biological material stored with the bank PBKM Famicord. The following web link provides an on-line contact form for parents to make inquiries about their samples, available in multiple languages: https://famicord.eu/contact-with-famicord
The referenced web page also contains links to Frequently Asked Questions in multiple languages. This announcement applies to the 330,000+ samples of cord blood and cord tissue from Cryo-Save clients in Europe.
The current location for almost all the Cryo-Save inventory is in Warsaw at the laboratory and bank of Polski Bank Komórek Macierzystych S.A. (shortly PBKM). This is a dedicated building that is located near the Warsaw airport. The samples of cord blood and cord tissue were transported to this new location inside freezer tanks. During this transfer, the temperature of the tanks was constantly monitored and they were accompanied by a team of experts. The inventory has been safe at its new location since the 2nd quarter of 2019.
Of course, parents will want to know, why did this happen, how did this happen, and could it happen again?
The history behind these events is very complicated. A combination of drivers include: an extremely competitive cord blood market in Europe causing family banks to lower their prices and operate on slim profit margins, management decisions to invest heavily in activities other than banking such as genetic tests and research, heavy corporate structure, and others. There are many legal and financial records in the public domain which document that Esperite NV (the parent company of Cryo-Save since 2014) has been losing money for years. By the end of 2018, the liabilities of Esperite exceeded their assets. The market cap of Esperite has dropped to a few million Euro.
Other cord blood banks in Europe have been watching the downfall of Cryo-Save with dismay. If the stored inventory of Cryo-Save were to be lost or substantially damaged, this would not only be devastating for the client families, but it would also create negative publicity that would have a chilling effect on the entire cord blood banking industry. Even public cord blood banks would be hurt by such an event, because when parents hear negative news about cord blood banks, they do not necessarily understand that there are distinctions between public versus family banks.
PBKM Famicord, which is now the largest stem cell bank in Europe, offered to acquire the family stem cell banking assets/shares of Cryo-Save. Negotiations began 22 Feb 2019, broke down 29 May 2019, were resumed 13 June 2019, and broke down again 25 June 2019. This information is in the public domain. Nonetheless, during negotiations the inventory was transferred to PBKM FamiCord as part of a “back-up storage” contract between CryoSave and PBKM FamiCord. Customer contracts with Cryo-Save are valid and Famicord will honor the prepaid storage periods. Cryo-Save is obliged to pay PBKM Famicord for storage. Parents impacted by this move should have received notifications from Cryo-Save in June 2019.
The ultimate fate of Cryo-Save is yet to be determined. At present none of the Cryo-Save cord blood laboratories in Europe are operating. The Cryo-Save offices in various countries are not responding to inquiries. We asked Jakub Baran, CEO of PBKM Famicord, for his opinion on the situation. He said, “I can’t comment much on the topic at the moment. I believe that any scenario is possible, including re-start of Cryo-Save, emerging a new company within Esperite Group banking cord blood, sanitation of Cryo-Save, or others – more negative.”
Parents are advised to verify the status of their children’s samples now. To do this, they should use the contact form from PBKM Famicord provided above. Due to the number of parents currently making inquiries, there is a backlog of at least 6-8 weeks to process requests. Once PBKM Famicord has confirmed the sample, they will issue the parents a new storage certificate at no charge.
Again, parents may wonder how safe is it to entrust their child’s newborn stem cells to a family bank? The answer is that when the bank is managed responsibly it is safe. This is why Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation has been advising parents for years not to assume that the banks are all the same and it is OK to just pick the one that is least expensive. The recent events with Cryo-Save illustrate that parents should take a closer look at the bank and contract with a company that has trustworthy leadership. Cord blood banking is a long-term service, so not only the medical quality, but also the financial stability of the bank and its mother company should be taken into consideration.