PerkinElmer has created the ViaCord Research Institute (VRI) to investigate new uses of stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood.
The new centre will use PerkinElmer's impressive genetics offering and its ViaCord subsidiary's 15 years of stem cell scientific experience to develop a range of cord blood technologies, ranging from genetic screening applications to emerging stem cell therapies.
PerkinElmer acquired its ViaCord umbilical cord blood business with its $300m (€190m) buyout of ViaCell at the end of last year, with a view to expanding the firms reach in the neonatal, prenatal and maternal health markets.
"We are very excited to focus our efforts on expanding the uses of cord blood stem cells with the establishment of the VRI," said Jim Corbett, president of ViaCord.
"VRI's mission to support science, technology and medical treatments using cord blood stem cells, and to leverage genetic information to facilitate the best treatment options, will enable us to continue to deliver on our commitment to increase the value of cord blood to families."
Once viewed as medical waste, umbilical cord blood has become a valuable, non controversial source of stem cells that have been found to be effective in treating over 70 serious diseases including many cancers and immunodeficiencies.
Many of the cord-blood stem cell therapies currently available are for diseases of the blood, based on the belief that the cells could only differentiate into blood-type cells.
However, research published in 2005 by Dr Colin McGukin of Kingston University, UK, (now Professor of Regenerative Medicine at Newcastle University, UK) identified and isolated a unique group of cells that expressed the majority of known embryonic stem cell markers.
These cells known as "cord-blood-derived embryonic-like stem cells" (CBEs), have been shown to differentiate into endothermal, mesodermal, neural, endothelial, hepatic, and pancreatic tissues.
To date, more than 10,000 cord blood transplants have been performed worldwide and the VRI will be looking to expand the use of CBEs into areas such as cardiac disease, autoimmune diseases and neurological disorders.
The new centre will focus on supporting science, technology and medical treatments using CBEs in five key areas: cord blood technologies, emerging stem cell therapies, genetic screening, product development and related transplants.
VRI will be chaired by ViaCord's chief technology officer, Morey Kraus, and counselled by a Medical Scientific Advisory board that includes tow ViaCord directors, Mark Walters, MD and Robert Bridell, along with Andrei Rebarber, MD, FACOG and Steven Fleischman, MD, FACOG.