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Advisory Panel

Asawari Bapat, MD

Questar Enterprises, Co-founder & Vice President

Dr. Bapat is originally from India, where she earned her medical degree with specialization in clinical pathology. For over 15 years she has lived in Dubai, while consulting for medical organizations around the world. Dr. Bapat is an expert in the operational management and regulatory compliance of stem cell facilities. Her expertise ranges across the complete spectrum from setting up laboratory SOP, to achieving accreditation, to submitting documentation for clinical trials of cellular therapy products. She has executed projects on behalf of diagnostic laboratories, hospitals, biobanks, apheresis and transfusion facilities, and biotherapy providers. Dr. Bapat has worked with numerous international Quality Management Systems, including  AABB, CAPFACT, JCI, USFDA, and the Ministry of Health for various nationalities. Dr. Bapat held a chair on the committee that developed the cord blood banking regulations adopted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI). She has worked for multiple cord blood banks as well as companies producing therapy products based on perinatal cells and tissues. Dr. Bapat has developed training materials for professionals as a subject matter expert on the topics of biotherapies and blood components. Dr. Bapat is the 2022 recipient of the AABB President's Award. Dr. Bapat has working proficiency in eight languages.


Alexey Bersenev, MD, PhD

Yale University, Director Advanced Cell Therapy Laboratories

Dr. Alexey Bersenev was born and raised in Russia, where he received an M.D. in general surgery and a Ph.D. in transplantation.  He has continued his professional training in the US, first at Thomas Jefferson University, and then as a post-doctoral fellow at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).  His research has explored the genetic mechanisms of hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cell self-renewal and errors, in order to better understand the development of leukemia. He has worked at the Clinical Cell and Vaccine Production Facility of the University of Pennsylvania, and is currently Director of the Cell Therapy Laboratory at Yale-New Haven Hospital, Yale University. Dr. Bersenev is very well known in the cell therapy community for his blogs, Hematopoieis, and StemCellAssays.  Dr. Bersenev is constantly studying new research reports from around the world, and considering how they may impact the development of cellular therapy products, including  the applications of cord blood stem cells.

Heather Brown, MS CGC

Cord Blood Registry, Vice President of Scientific & Medical Affairs

Heather Brown has over twenty years of clinical and business experience in the healthcare and biotech industries. She holds a M.S. in Health and Medical Sciences from the University of California at Berkeley, and is a board certified genetic counselor with extensive experience in the delivery of genetic screening programs. Ms. Brown began her career in the Fetal Diagnostic Center at Kapiolani Medical Center in Honolulu HI, where she coordinated the maternal serum screening program, provided patient care for prenatal genetic indications throughout the state, and ran the perinatal bereavement program. After several positions in direct patient care, she transitioned to clinical roles at genetics-related healthcare companies and joined Cord Blood Registry (CBR). She currently leads all scientific and medical affairs functions at CBR, including physician education programs, investigator initiated study sponsorship, and medical need based programs.

Lizette Dunay

Parent's Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, Parent Educator

Lizette is a co-founder of Cure CP.  She has 15 years of experience in the medical and biologics field in a sales and business development capacity. She has spent six years as a regional manager for a hybrid (both public and private storage) cord blood bank. Lizette helped found Cure CP in 2010 when she encountered many closed doors in her quest to have her son's cerebral palsy (CP) treated with his own bone marrow stem cells. Her belief in the science of regenerative medicine, coupled with a desire to make life easier for her son and others with cerebral palsy, is what drove her to start Cure CP. Cure CP is the only parent-led non-profit in the USA that is 100% dedicated to funding CP research. Currently Cure CP has helped fund three clinical trials in the US for children with cerebral palsy. Lizette is a graduate of the University of Florida where she received her B.A. in Economics and a minor in Spanish. Lizette's skill sets combine knowledge of both cord blood donation and family storage, the personal perspective as a mother of a child with disabilities, efforts in patient advocacy, and familiarity with clinical trials. She is uniquely qualified to help others looking to make cord blood healthcare decisions for their family. Lizette is also fluent in Spanish. She lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband and two children.

Mai Ibrahim, MSc MBA

Alpha Cord, Chief Executive Officer

Mai Ibrahim has over 15 years of leadership experience in cell therapy. She was the laboratory director of the cord blood bank operations at Cryo-Save Arabia (now named CellSave), responsible for strategic development and overall management. She received her graduate degree in biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University, USA.  She started her career in cord blood banking at Cord Blood Registry in Arizona. In 2010, Mai moved to Dubai and joined Cryo-Save Arabia. During her time there, she completed an MBA degree in the London Business School. In addition, she is a certified quality auditor for the American Society of Quality (CQA, ASQ) and an assessor and an active member with AABB, where she conducts audits on cord blood banks around the world. Mai has spoken at several international medical conferences, and has appeared on radio and television talking about the benefits of stem cell banking. Mai has implemented the cord tissue, bone marrow, placental tissue, and amnion placental tissue services at CellSave Arabia. Mai moved to the United States in 2021 and took over the US-based family cord blood bank Alpha Cord.

Vasiliki E. Kalodimou, PhD

IASO Maternity Hospital, Director of Flow Cytometry & Regenerative Medicine Research

Vasiliki Kalodimou graduated from Imperial University of Medicine in UK with a Masters in human molecular genetics. She also holds a PhD in stem cells expansion-flow cytometry and regenerative medicine from Kapodistrian University of Medicine in Greece. Dr. Kalodimou decided to become involved in stem cell research when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer during her first year in college - her decision was that she wanted to help other people find stem cell therapies. She is an expert in flow cytometry and stem cells, and her research is focusing in the application of adipose mesenchymal stem cells to regenerative medicine, where Dr. Kalodimou has 2 patents.  In addition to collaboration with state universities and pharmaceutical companies on research projects, Dr. Kalodimou also publishes her findings. The Greek version of her first book is Basic Principles in Flow Cytometry, while the English version was published by AABB Press and was placed as medical student reference material in the USA and India. Her latest book, A Handbook to Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Regenerative Medicine, was published in 2015. Dr. Kalodimou is an AABB Lead/Sole assessor and a board member at the AABB Cellular Therapy Accreditation Program Unit for worldwide standards development. She is a past leader (2013-2016) of the  AABB Cellular Therapy Subsection on CT Product Manufacturing and Testing.  She is a mentor for the AABB Cellular Therapy, Professional Engagement Program (PEP), where in 2017 she received the “Shining Star” award. Dr. Kalodimou is currently the director of research in regenerative medicine at IASO Maternity Hospital near Athens, which is the largest maternity hospital in Greece. Kalodimou’s passion is working on research projects for better patient health.

Joanne Kurtzberg, MD

Duke Univ. Medical Center, Dept. Pediatrics & Marcus Center for Cellular Cures

Dr. Kurtzberg is a distinguished professor of pediatrics at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina. Dr. Kurtzberg was the first physician in the United States to perform cord blood transpants, starting in 1993. Under her leadership, Duke University has performed over a thousand cord blood transplants and has pioneered new clinical applications for cord blood stem cells. Her team showed that cord blood transplants can correct metabolic disorders, such as storage diseases, in young children. Dr. Kurtzberg also leads the Robertson Clinical and Translational Cell Therapy Program at Duke, which is now the home of the Marcus Center for Cellular Cures. Dr. Kurtzberg pioneered the use of cord blood stem cells to treat acquired neurological disorders in young children. Her team is currently conducting trials on the use of cell therapy to treat Cerebral Palsy and Autism Spectrum Disorder.  In addition to her clinical responsibilities, Dr. Kurtzberg has served the cord blood community in a number of leadership and committee positions.  Dr. Kurtzberg is the Director of the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank, a public bank at Duke University which participates in the Be The Match® network, and is also the Medical Director of Cryo-Cell cord blood bank. She has been a member of the HRSA Advisory Council on Blood Stem Cell Transplantation and is the founding President of the Cord Blood Association.  On top of all these responsibilities, Dr. Kurtzberg is never too busy to respond to inquiries from parents or patients.

Irene Martini, PhD

Scientific Director of SmartBank

Dr. Martini is the co-founder and Scientific Director of SmartBank s.r.l., a family cord blood bank based in Rome, Italy, which uses laboratory storage facilities at BioVault in the UK. Dr. Martini has more than 25 years experience as a researcher, and has written scientific publications as well as patent documents. She worked as a post-PhD researcher at La Sapienza University Microbiology laboratory, and at the Virology laboratory of the Italian National Insititute of Health, Instituto Superiore di Sanita.  Dr Martini has also taken part in several European Union and World Health Organisation (WHO) international research projects in collaboration with the Institut Pasteur in Paris, exploiting her skills in Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Neurobiology, Microbiology, and Immunology fields. She has collaborated with the Gaslini Institute on a project concerning perinatal solid cancer in children. As part of her work with Smart Bank, Dr Martini has appeared frequently on national television and radio to explain the benefits of cord blood storage. She also runs monthly courses for prospective parents on the potential benefits of storage, including the latest research developments, as well as courses for gynaecologists and mid-wives. Smart Bank advocates storage of cord blood both for the family and for the public via donation. Their lab, BioVault, is the only bank in the UK which offers both kinds of storage. She has three children herself, and was able to save cord blood for the youngest.

Roger Mrowiec, PhD

Community Blood Services, Scientific Director of the Stem Cell Laboratory

Dr. Mrowiec oversees cord blood collection, processing, and storage for both public and private banking programs at Community Blood Services, a subsidiary of Blood Systems Inc. He also participates in research partnerships with other organizations to make stem cells from cord blood and other perinatal tissues more widely available to patients in need of therapy. Dr. Mrowiec is integral to the laboratory's compliance with accreditation standards, participation in the NMDP bank network, and the preparation of an FDA BLA submission. Dr. Mrowiec is a member of: American Association of Blood Banks (AABB), International Society for Hematotherapy and Graft Engineering (ISHAGE), New Jersey Society of Blood Bank Professionals, Perinatal Stem Cell Society, Cord Blood Association, and is former president of the Polish Society of Hematology and Transfusiology, Warsaw Division. Dr. Mrowiec is currently on the advisory board of PBKM. Previously, Dr. Mrowiec was assistant professor with the Dept. of Oncology at Montefiore Medical Center at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City  (1991-1996); and an assistant professor at the Institute of Hematology in Warsaw, Poland (1982-1993). Dr. Mrowiec received his M.Sc. and Ph.D. from the Medical University of Bialystok, Poland. His main scientific interest is the cryopreservation and storage of blood cells.

Jordan Perlow, MD

Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center, Associate Director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Jordan Perlow is an OB/Gyn at Phoenix Perinatal Associates in Arizona, as well as Associate Director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center since 1992. He is a graduate of Northwestern Univ. Med. School and completed his OB/Gyn residency at Rush-Presbyterian St. Lukes Medical Center; both in Chicago. Dr. Perlow then did a fellowship in Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the Univ. of California-Irvine.  He is Board Certified in both Obstetrics and Gynecology and the sub-specialty of Maternal-Fetal Medicine.  Dr. Perlow has published numerous papers in peer reviewed medical journals, though within the cord blood community he may be best known for his survey "Patient's Knowledge of Umbilical Cord Blood Banking".  Dr. Perlow reviews papers submitted for publication in Amer. J. Obstet. Gyn. as well as O&G.  He has been recognized with several professional awards and holds several academic appointments.  Dr. Perlow frequently grants media interviews and gives talks on subjects relating to women's health, pregnancy, cord blood banking, and newborn health.  Dr. Perlow is also very active as a volunteer for the March of Dimes and has participated in Medical Missions overseas.

Kim Petrella, MSN, RNC-OB

Parent's Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, Parent Educator

Kim Petrella is a Labor & Delivery Nurse in the Dept. of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware, and is a member of the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN). Mrs. Petrella specializes in educating medical professionals about the importance of saving cord blood. She has had numerous speaking engagements about the power and future of cord blood stem cells. In addition to medical professionals, she has spoken to medical students, nursing students, and high school students. Most of all, she focuses her energies on empowering parents to save their baby's cord blood versus throwing it away. Her efforts were recognized in Oct. 2007 by an award from Delaware Health and Social Services as one of the Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Award winners in the state of Delaware. In May 2017 she received her MSN degree from Wilmington University.

Ian Rogers, PhD

Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mt. Sinai Hospital, Associate Scientist and Assistant Professor

Dr. Rogers is an Associate Scientist and Assistant Professor at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mt. Sinai Hospital, in Toronto, Canada.  His research is focused on umbilical cord blood (UCB) stem cell biology, UCB stem cell expansion, and the development of UCB cell therapies for hematopoietic diseases, neural diseases, and type 1 diabetes.  It is his hope to bring UCB stem cell therapy from bench to bedside as a standard therapy for disease treatment.  In order for that to become a reality, the following hurdles must be overcome:

  1. safety issues;
  2. sufficient cell numbers;
  3. easily accessible sources;
  4. efficient mode of delivery to the target organs and
  5. demonstrated functional improvement after transplantation.

The research in Dr. Rogers' laboratory aims to solve some of these problems.  They have established culture conditions which proliferate and maintain multipotent UCB stem cells.  They are currently examining the stability and predictability of the process, so that it can be used to produce clinically significant numbers of stem cells for therapeutic treatment.  Dr. Rogers is also a Scientific Founder of the largest family cord blood bank in Canada, Insception Biosciences.

Karen Taylor, MD

Newport Gynecology, Physician/Owner

Dr. Karen Taylor is a board certified OB/Gyn from Newport Beach, California. She graduated from Tuft’s University School of Medicine and completed her specialty training in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Taylor first developed a passion for cord blood banking during her residency training where she collected cord blood units for a UCLA Program. Later in her career she went on to become a Medical Director for a public/private cord blood bank. She used this platform to increase the inventory of large, high quality and ethnically diverse cord blood units for the national Be The Match inventory.  She has been a member of the NMDP Cord Blood Collection Advisory Panel and authored an abstract for the12th Annual Cord Blood Symposium titled: Innovative Collaboration to Improve the Success of Public Cord Blood Collections. Dr. Taylor continues to spend the majority of her time consulting for cord blood banks with the goal of improving education for families and obstetricians and providing guidance on how to collect quality cord blood units.

Mark Weiss, PhD

Kansas State University School of Veterinary Medicine, Professor of Neuroscience

Dr. Weiss is a Professor of Neuroscience and Stem Cell Biology in the Dept. of Anatomy and Physiology at the Kansas State University School of Veterinary Medicine (KSUCVM).  Dr. Weiss, together with his colleagues Drs. Deryl Troyer, Duane Davis, and Kathy Mitchell, discovered that the matrix of the umbilical cord, also known as Wharton's Jelly, holds mesenchymal stromal cells which may differentiate along the lineages of bone, fat, cartilage and neurons.  Kansas State University has a patent on methods to harvest, grow, and store umbilical cord matrix stem cells and the use of matrix cells for therapy, tissue engineering, and biotechnology.  Dr. Weiss is one of four founders of the The Midwest Institute for Comparative Stem Cell Biology, and he is Associate Director of the  Terry C. Johnson Center for Basic Cancer Research at KSU.  Currently, Dr. Weiss's laboratory is characterizing the role of human and animal umbilical cord matrix stem cells to reverse the behavioral deficits found in a rat model of Parkinson's disease.  Dr. Weiss is also a consultant for the Toucan Capital Corporation.