WASHINGTON, DC -- In an effort to help thousands of patients suffering from diseases requiring bone marrow and cord blood transplants, the U.S. Senate passed U.S. Senator Jack Reed’s (D-RI) Timely Reauthorization of Necessary Stem Cell Programs Lends Access to Needed Therapies (TRANSPLANT) Act. This bipartisan bill, which was co-authored by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Tim Scott (R-SC), offers promise to the tens of thousands of individuals diagnosed with leukemia and lymphomas, sickle cell anemia, and rare genetic blood disorders. 

The legislation reauthorizes the National Marrow Donor Program and the National Cord Blood Inventory (NCBI).  The bill would renew, through 2026, these federal programs for using bone marrow and umbilical cord blood to treat diseases and conduct research.  It would authorize a total of $270 million over a five-year period.

“This is a significant victory for patients and families who face unimaginable odds and offers them hope, resources, and possibilities.  I commend my colleagues for coming together to ensure transplant patients have access to life-saving procedures,” said Senator Reed.  “Our 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.  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.”

“This week’s passage is a significant win for Americans and their families suffering from devastating diseases,” said Senator Burr. “Cord blood and bone marrow donor programs are critical to the research efforts and treatment of a variety of diseases and disorders. These successful programs represent our commitment to developing innovative therapies, thanks in large part to the groundbreaking work taking place in North Carolina. This legislation expands access to these live-saving programs and ensures that our work keeps pace with today’s medical advancements. I look forward to the President’s signature.”

“The National Marrow Donor Program and the National Cord Blood Inventory save lives, so we are doing everything we can to ensure it continues. We’re working across the aisle for the patients and families across the country who know just how vital it is to keep these programs running,” said Senator Smith, a member of the Senate Health Committee. “Saving lives should always be bipartisan, and let’s get this over the finish line.”

Companion legislation (H.R. 941) introduced by Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives last month by a vote of 415-2.  Now that the full U.S. Senate approved the bill it can be sent to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

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.

The only two members of Congress to vote against the bill were U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and U.S. Representative Laura Boebert (R-CO).

SUMMARY: The Timely Reauthorization of Necessary Stem-Cell Programs Lends Access to Needed Therapies (TRANSPLANT) Act of 2021 (S.288)

Reaffirms the commitment to these life-saving programs by reauthorizing the National Marrow Donor Program at $31 million and the National Cord Blood Inventory at $23 million each year from FY22 through FY26 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.