Cord Blood Industry Mergers and Acquisitions
Over the past five years, the cord blood and tissue marketplace has seen substantial consolidation. One major event was the acquisition of the United States' largest cord blood, Cord Blood Registry (CBR), by AMAG Pharmaceuticals for $700M (March 2015). Previously, ViaCord had been acquired by the multinational company PerkinElmer in October 2007 for $300M. Human Longevity Inc. also acquired LifebankUSA from Celgene (Jan 2016).
In the most recent and surprising news, Australia's largest cord blood bank, Cell Care, acquired Canada's largest cord blood bank, Insception Lifebank (October 2016). Other smaller examples of market consolidation were AlphaCord's acquisition of LifeSource Cryobank (Nov 2015), which represented its 5th acquisition of smaller cord blood banks, and FamilyCord's acquisition of Southern Cord (April 2016).
Additionally, the phenomenon of "holding companies" has recently emerged within the cord blood and tissue industry, with companies like CryoHoldco buying up cord blood banks within targeted regions of the world. Specifically, CryoHoldco was created in 2015 with the purpose of forming the premier stem cell banking company in Latin America. It is a stem cell bank holding company that is the market leader in Latin America and one of the largest stem cell banks in the world. CryoHoldco is about five times larger (5X) than any other stem cell bank in Latin America—with more than 125,000 cord blood samples stored. When cord tissue units are also included, it has more than 130,000 stem cell units in inventory.
CryoHoldco has been highly effective in using the technique of being a holding company to grow into one of the leading cord blood banks worldwide. (Learn more about Cryoholdco's business model here.)
Interestingly, this era of maturation and consolidation has had as many benefits to surviving cord blood market participants as drawbacks. On average, the remaining market participants are now larger, stronger, better capitalized, and storing larger quantities of cord blood and tissue units than when the market was more fragmented. Surviving cord blood banks have also been able to diversify into the storage of other types of perinatal cells, including cord tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), placenta-derived stem cells, menstrual-derived stem cells, and other perinatal tissues. Today, it is appreciated that the birth of a newborn contributes "multiple gifts from the baby" in terms of stem cells that could be valuable for future medical use. Finally, larger cord blood banks that acquire smaller ones benefit from increasing operating efficiency, merging storage facilities, and increasing their capacity to facilitate cord blood related R&D.
In the recent acquisition of Insception Lifebank by Cell Care, Insception's Founder & Medical Director commented, "Insception is enthusiastic about the growth that bringing Cell Care's R&D and clinical trial experience to Canada will contribute to its business."
Within this context, the key questions are:
- How long with this era of "maturation and consolidation" within the cord blood industry last?
- When will breakthrough technologies, like ex vivo expansion of cord blood stem cells, usher in a new era of cord blood industry growth?
Currently, the biggest problem with cord blood transplantation is limiting number of stem and progenitor cells in an unmanipulated cord blood unit, because limited cell dose is associated with delayed engraftment. Delayed engraftment correlates with increased patient morbidity and mortality. If my instinct is correct, recent progress with novel technologies for ex vivo expansion of cord blood stem cells by companies like Gamida Cell and Nohla Therapeutics indicate that the time for cord blood industry disruption may be near.