If you’re thinking of banking your newborn’s cord blood or tissue, you’re probably doing some research to determine which company to choose. After all, it’s a considerable expense, and the relationship with your cord blood bank could extend over many years. To help you make an informed choice with this important investment, we compare ViaCord vs. Cord Blood Registry (CBR) across a range of key criteria.
Founded in 1992, CBR is one of the largest private cord blood banks. CBR is owned by CooperSurgical (NYSE: COO).
CBR claims to have helped more than 600 families use their cord blood stem cells for established and experimental medical treatments. CBR partners with certain research institutions conducting clinical trials for diseases with no known cure, such as autism, acquired hearing loss and cerebral palsy. CBR also offers genetic screening through Sema4, a third-party provider, as an adjunct service.
ViaCord is a subsidiary of Perkin-Elmer, a publicly-traded (NYSE: PKI) biotech company with a multi-product portfolio. They have more than 25 years of experience in cord banking and offer adjunct services such as genomic testing as well. They claim that more than 500 stem cell units have been released for transplant.
Cord Blood Bank Pricing Compared
When comparing pricing, look at stated costs as well as hidden costs, like courier fees, release fees, and shipment fees.
CBR has 3 different storage options: Annual, 18-year Prepaid Storage, and Lifetime Prepaid Storage.
- Annual Storage Plan: $1,685 for cord blood / $2,860 for cord blood + tissue
- 18-Year Storage Plan: $4,395 for cord blood / $8,260 for cord blood + tissue
- Lifetime Storage Plan: $6,495 for cord blood / $12,460 for cord blood + tissue
ViaCord also has 3 different storage options: Annual, 20-year Prepaid Storage, and 25-year Prepaid Storage. They do not offer a lifetime storage plan at this time.
- Annual Storage Plan: $1,900 for cord blood / $2,945 for cord blood + tissue
- 20-Year Storage Plan: $4,490 for cord blood / $8,125 for cord blood + tissue
- 25-Year Storage Plan: $4,950 for cord blood / $9,045 for cord blood + tissue
The above pricing does not reflect seasonal or periodic discounts, coupons, or multi-baby discounts.
Storage Fee Guarantee
One of the other ways hidden costs can accrue is when annual storage fees are raised repeatedly and unexpectedly.
- CBR has had 3 storage fee increases in the last 5 years.
- ViaCord offers a 5-year storage fee guarantee. Their website claims they have not raised their annual storage fee in the last 5 years.
Cord Blood Bank Processing Compared
While cord blood stem cells have a great capacity to proliferate, the goal in processing is to recover the greatest number of stem cells. Processing relies on three critical factors: timing, technology, and the lab’s accreditation and experience.
The sooner the cord blood collection kit gets to the lab, the more stem cells there will be to recover. The average processing times from collection at the hospital to processing at the lab are as follows:
- CBR - 24 hours
- ViaCord - 25 hours
The method by which the stem cells are processed also affects the number of viable cells harvested from the cord blood sample.
- CBR - AXP® II AutoXpress
- ViaCord - an “individualized technique”
AXP II AutoXpress is an automated cord blood processing platform that employs optical sensor technology to precisely separate stem cells from cord blood. AXP II stem cell processing yields are 20% higher than Sepax® and Hespan® processing methods [*].
While some smaller cord banks claim manual processing yields more stem cells, the AXP II system significantly minimizes the possibility of lab technician errors and the introduction of contaminants that can occur during manual processing. On top of that, it has the highest proven rate of cell yield, which may impact transplant success rates and patient survival rates [*].
You’ll see a lot of acronyms when cord blood banks tout their lab credentials. Here are each of the bank’s accreditations and what they mean:
- CBR - AABB accredited, CLIA Certified, FDA Registered, ISO 9001:2015 Certified
- ViaCord - AABB accredited, CLIA Certified, FDA Registered
The AABB (formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks, now the Association for Advancement of Blood & Biotherapies) was conceived in 1947 with a focus on blood banks and is widely recognized as the gold standard in accreditation. The AABB sets the standards for safe stem cell processing, therapies, and tissue transplants and advises the FDA on technical matters associated with transfusion medicine and biotherapies. AABB accredits institutions in more than 50 countries.
Stands for Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments, a set of federal laws passed in 1988 to create standards for any laboratory that performs any patient testing. Labs that are registered with CLIA get inspected every two years. The cost of CLIA validation is paid by the laboratory and the program is managed by the US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). [*]
All cord blood banks that operate within the U.S. must be FDA registered. Private cord banks must comply with FDA requirements including establishment registration and listing, donor screening and testing for infectious diseases (except when used for the original donor), reporting and labeling requirements, and compliance with current good tissue practice regulations [*]. Registered establishments are subject to FDA inspection to ensure they are complying with the regulations. The inspections of private banks are designed to ensure the prevention of infectious disease transmission.
FDA licensing is only required of public cord banks and is known as FDA BLA. When the stem cells are going from donor to unrelated patient, the FDA treats the stem cells essentially as a drug.
Stands for International Organization for Standardization. While there is no ISO specific to cord banking, there are other aspects of the business for which an organization has well-documented procedures to ensure its products or services meet or exceed regulatory requirements.
Cord Blood Bank Lab Reliability Compared
Some websites note the location of their lab and those of their competitors, perhaps suggesting that a natural disaster might be more likely to occur where the competitors’ labs are located.
- CBR’s lab is located in Arizona. While the location is not in the line of natural disasters, the lab still employs extremely robust temperature monitoring and redundant power sources. With the largest bulk nitrogen tanks in the country, CBR’s lab can go without power for several weeks should the need arise.
- ViaCord’s lab also employs backup and security systems to monitor and mitigate temperature and power fluctuations. But its location in Hebron, Kentucky — less than a mile from the banks of the Ohio River, which is prone to massive flooding — is a major concern. In the last 80 years, 29 floods have occurred in this area, prompting Boone County, where the lab is located, to be labeled a federal disaster area. [*]
Cord Blood Collection Kits Compared
You only get one chance to harvest these precious cells, so the cord blood collection kit matters. You’ll want to make sure the kit:
- Uses a sterile, FDA-approved cord blood collection bag that can also be used within the sterile field in the event a C-section is required.
- Protects the cord blood and tissue from ambient temperature fluctuations en route to the laboratory.
- Is sufficiently robust to prevent any damage to contents.
- Is transported by medical courier to minimize the potential for damage.
- Includes collection instructions for your medical professional.
- Cord blood collection bag is not FDA-approved but is sterile so can be used for C-sections.
- Adds an antibiotic to the cord tissue sample to protect it from contamination.
- ViaCord does not say that their kit has any ability to mitigate temperature fluctuations.
- Uses an FDA-approved cord blood collection bag with citrate phosphate dextrose (CPD), an anticoagulant that also functions as a cell preservative. CPD has been proven to increase stem cell yield by more than 50%, compared to cord blood collection bags with heparin, and CPD is recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for cord blood collection.
Cord Blood Bank Quality Guarantees Compared
What happens if you retrieve your stem cells for a transplant and they fail to engraft?
CBR provides a $50,000 Quality Service Guarantee. In the event that the cord blood stem cells are used in hematopoietic reconstitution and fail to engraft, CBR will refund all service fees paid by you to CBR for the cord blood stem cells and will pay you an additional $50,000. This Guarantee is subject to important terms and conditions and does not apply to cord blood or cord tissue use in regenerative medicine applications.
If your child's cord blood stem cells fail to engraft during a transplant, ViaCord will pay $35,000 to defray the cost of procuring an alternative stem cell source as determined by your doctor.
MiracleCord: Your CBR and ViaCord Alternative
Like CBR and ViaCord, MiracleCord’s lab is FDA-registered, AABB-accredited, and CLIA-certified and employs top-tier collection, processing, and storage technology. Here are a few of the advantages we offer over ViaCord and CBR:
- AXP II Processing: Like CBR, MiracleCord uses this state-of-the-art technology to recover the most stem cells during processing.
- Time from collection to processing: MiracleCord processes stem cells in significantly less time than most other companies. This greatly improves stem cell yield, which in turn can improve transplant outcomes.
- Direct medical courier: MiracleCord doesn’t hand off your collection kit to UPS or FedEx. Our proprietary StemCare® Thermal Collection Kit travels by medical courier only, 24/7/365, at no additional cost to you.
- More affordable pricing: MiracleCord offers the best pricing, especially in the long term, and no hidden fees whatsoever. For instance, our annual storage plan for cord blood + tissue is about $1,000 lower than both CBR and ViaCord, and our 20-year storage plans are nearly $4,000 lower. We will also price-match any company’s fees for comparable services, and unlike some companies, we have no hidden fees.
- Higher guarantee: If your child's cord blood unit is used in a stem cell transplant and the cells fail to engraft, MiracleCord will pay up to $100,000 towards the cost of procurement of an alternative stem cell source.
- Refund option: Unlike CBR and ViaCord, if you’ve paid upfront for a 20-year or Lifetime plan with MiracleCord and need to use all of your child’s stem cells ahead of that time, we will reimburse you for the time you didn't use, at the prorated storage amount.
Top tier technology, value, and service: Discover why Global Health & Pharma, an independent biotech ratings organization, rated MiracleCord the Best U.S. Cord Blood Bank.
Choose the Best Cord Blood Bank for You
The private cord bank marketplace has many companies in every size niche, from large cord blood banks like CBR and ViaCord to midsize companies like MiracleCord to mom-n-pop shops. While this overview is by no means comprehensive, we hope it gives you an idea of what’s most important in choosing your cord blood banking partner.
For many customers, it comes down to quality and the service experience. There are countless times when we’ve received a panicked call to get our collection kit to a hospital when the mother is in labor (and we’ve done it). Other times, we’ve patiently and honestly answered a whole lot of questions before customers choose us. For others, it’s about the best value for their money.
Information gathered October, 2022. CBR is a registered trademark of Cord Blood Registry, Inc.; Viacord is a registered trademark of Viacord, Inc..; AXP is a registered trademark of ThermoGenesis Corp.