WASHINGTON, DC - In an effort to help thousands of patients suffering from diseases requiring bone marrow and cord blood transplants, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), along with Senators Richard Burr (D-NC), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced the Timely Reauthorization of Necessary Stem Cell Programs Lends Access to Needed Therapies (TRANSPLANT) Act.  This bipartisan bill offers promise to the tens of thousands of individuals diagnosed with leukemia and lymphomas, sickle cell anemia, and rare genetic blood disorders by reauthorizing the National Marrow Donor Program and the National Cord Blood Inventory (NCBI).  The bill would renew, until 2025, these federal programs for using bone marrow and cord blood to treat diseases and conduct research.  It would authorize a total of $256 million over a five-year period.

“This bipartisan bill builds upon the highly successful National Marrow Donor Program that has been a lifeline for thousands of transplant patients over the last two decades.  It helps bring hope and a second chance at life to thousands of patients and would inject millions in federal funding for medical care,” said Senator Reed.  “Bone marrow and cord blood transplants continue to offer effective treatments for a number of diseases and disorders.  This bipartisan bill would help expand access to lifesaving therapies to patients with conditions that can be treated and even cured with bone marrow or cord blood.”

“Cord blood and bone marrow donor programs play a critical, life-saving role in treating Americans suffering from debilitating diseases,” said Senator Burr. “Over the last decade, we’ve made important strides in developing these treatments, thanks in large part to groundbreaking work happening in North Carolina. But we must continue building on recent medical advancements to ensure the work we do today benefits Americans and their families in the future. This legislation does just that by laying the groundwork for the next generation of these innovative therapies and renewing our commitment to these life-saving programs.”

“In 1968, the world’s first successful bone marrow transplant from a matched, related donor took place in Minnesota,” said Senator Smith. “Since then, Minnesota has continued to be at the forefront of advancing transplant therapy to help cure diseases. This bipartisan bill is a strong marker of Congress’ commitment to life-saving bone marrow and blood cord transplant programs. We need to move this bill forward to help patients in Minnesota and across the country receive the best possible treatment.”

“This bipartisan legislation has the potential to substantially increase access to life-saving transplants for patients suffering from a wide range of conditions, including sickle cell disease,” said Senator Scott. “In addition to reauthorizing these vital donor registry programs, the TRANSPLANT Act would take key steps towards advancing innovative cellular therapies that could transform the treatment landscape.”

Cord blood is the blood that remains in the placenta and in the attached umbilical cord after childbirth.  It is collected and used in research because it is rich in blood-forming stem cells, which can be used to treat a range of diseases.  Umbilical cord blood has a high concentration of blood-forming cells, known as “stem cells.”  As with bone marrow transplants, cord blood transplants can help patients replace sick cells with healthy ones.

The bill also reauthorizes the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program, which houses the National Registry, known as “Be the Match;” the Office of Patient Advocacy; and the Stem Cell Therapeutic Outcomes Database.

Today, over 22 million Americans are registered bone marrow donors resulting in nearly 6,500 transplants just last year.  In the years since NCBI was established, more than 300,000 cord blood units have been collected, facilitating more than 100,000 blood stem cell transplants.  The TRANSPLANT Act would reaffirm the commitment to these life-saving programs, which have been helping to connect individuals in need of bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplants with donors for more than two decades.

SUMMARY: The Timely Reauthorization of Necessary Stem-Cell Programs Lends Access to Needed Therapies (TRANSPLANT) Act of 2020

•  Reaffirms the commitment to these life-saving programs by reauthorizing the National Marrow Donor Program at $30 million and the National Cord Blood Inventory at $23 million each year from FY21 through FY25 to ensure that these programs continue to offer promise to the tens of thousands of individuals diagnosed with leukemia and lymphomas, sickle cell anemia, and rare genetic blood disorders.

•  Keeps pace with scientific advancements for patients: This legislation requires the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to fully review the state of the science for adult stem cell therapies to capture advancements that may stand to benefit patients in the future. This reporting requirement will keep Congress informed about available treatments using adult stem cells and provide recommendations for the potential inclusion of new therapies in these programs.

•  Builds a foundation for the next generation of therapies: As adult stem cell therapies advance in laboratories around the country, it is important to ensure that the federal government is fully leveraging the tools at its disposal to help patients benefit from these advancements. The TRANSPLANT Act reinforces the activities at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) jumpstarted by the 21st Century Cures Act to advance the field of regenerative medicine and requires a review of the workforce that will help make the next generation of treatments and therapies available to Americans.