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Victoria Angel Registry of Hope - Uniquely Helping Canadians

Jane Virro
Victoria Angel Registry - IT IS SIMPLE

Jane Virro, co-founder
Cells for Life & Victoria Angel

Canada has the most ethnically diverse population in all of the Group of Eight (G-8) leading industrialised countries (1). Over 20% of Canada's population is foreign-born, with representation from almost 200 countries. Among those who arrived since 2001, almost 60% are from Asia (including the Middle East). Currently, 20% of the population identify themselves as members of a visible minority, which accounts for over 6 million people. The median age of this group, 33.4 years, is within the child-bearing years.

Canada prides itself on being a 'mosaic culture' and thus many children are born with mixed ethnicities. As we know, people in this population have a difficult time finding a bone marrow donor; access to cord blood stem cells is vital to this group. So it would make sense for Canada to have a fully developed and effective public cord blood program, but unfortunately this is not the case.

The Canadian government started talking about public cord blood banking in 2006, yet the process was slow. During this time, we decided to act. As the leaders at Cells for Life, one of Canada's largest and most respected family cord blood banks, we recognized that Canada was a top-10 user of cord blood stem cells world-wide (2), yet it had one of the lowest inventories of available samples in the G-8 countries. Our team at Cells for Life felt a personal and professional obligation to help, and thus we founded Victoria Angel Registry of Hope (VAR) public cord blood bank.

Since 2005, we have dedicated a great deal of time and resources as well as a portion of Cells for Life profits to develop the VAR public program. Over time, it was recognized that additional funding was needed to build the bank's inventory faster. In 2012, VAR received charitable status and became a stand-alone public cord blood bank. Currently, the bank's work is mostly supported by fund-raising, with Cells for Life still being one of the largest financial sponsors of the bank.

Victoria Angel Registry of Hope is one of Canada's three public cord blood banks. HémaQuébec cord blood program, supported by the provincial government of Québec, started collecting cord blood in 2004 and now has a network of eight hospitals accepting donations. Canadian Blood Services finally received government funding and opened its first cord blood collection site in Ottawa in September 2013. Canadian Blood Services plans to operate two processing laboratories and collection sites at five hospitals.

VAP 34 collection hospitals

Victoria Angel Registry of Hope accepts donated cord blood from parents delivering at 34 hospitals in the Toronto region. The charity manages donor education, recruitment, and screening, as well as collection and disposition of samples. Services related to cord blood processing and storage are contracted to the Cells for Life laboratory, which is accredited by both AABB and FACT, on a strict cost-recovery basis. VAR's program has passed regulatory inspection by Health Canada, has been accredited by AABB as part of the Cells for Life program, and has a FACT inspection planned in 2015.

Donations stored in the VAR public bank are listed on the international BMDW network for patients seeking donors. Cord blood collections that do not meet the requirements to be saved for transplants are used in a variety of research collaborations. VAR is poised to ramp up operations as funding is received. The infrastructure is in place and all funds donated will go directly toward banking more cord blood.

Victoria Angel's vision is clear - an effective Canadian public cord blood system continues to grow, giving hope and help to patients in need of transplant. This is best developed by embracing, supporting, combining and synchronizing the efforts and expertise of all who work in the field. Victoria Angel Registry of Hope is committed to growing our inventory and doing our part to help Canadians acquire the help and hope they need.


  1. Statistics Canada, most recent report 2011
  2. WMDA Annual Report, 2012