An 'Insurance Policy' for Future Diseases

However, a study carried out by the Business Data Israel about the collection of stem cells in Israel indicates that this is not yet a common practice: Only about 3 percent of the new mothers in Israel make use of the services of private companies for the collection of umbilical cord blood. As of today, there are two public and four private banks active in Israel; in the public banks there is a reserve of about 2,000 units of umbilical blood and the private banks hold about 5,000 to 6,000 units. BDI, however, predicts for 2006 a significant increase of about 20 to 30 percent in the number of units of umbilical cord blood that will be collected in the private market in the stem cell industry in Israel.

The two public banks in Israel for preserving umbilical cord blood are run by Magen David Adom and by Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, and there are only four private banks active in the field - Biocord, Taburit, Criosal and Ta Lehaim (Medifreeze). The most veteran company in Israel is Criosal, which began its activity in 2002. The three other companies entered the field only during the past year.

The study found that in Israel to date, approximately 60 surgical transplants have been carried out by means of stem cells that have their source in umbilical cord blood. Because of the relatively small quantity of blood that is collected, most of the transplants are carried out in children. The study also indicates that about half of the transplants in Israel were performed at Schneider Children's Hospital, about 25 percent at Sheba and about 25 percent at Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem. The health basket and the supplementary insurance policies of the HMOs partially cover the costs of stem cell transplants.