SouthernCord is the newest associate company on HudsonAlpha’s roster. President and CEO Chakri Deverapalli gave us greater insight into SouthernCord, which is not only the first cord blood banking company in Huntsville, but in the entire state.
Q: How did SouthernCord get started?
SouthernCord opened doors in January 2010 and started accepting in April 2010. SouthernCord was born out of an entrepreneurial spirit coupled with service-oriented goals. When we first looked at cord blood banking, even though it was a life preserving opportunity, it was not something most young parents could afford. We wanted to bring this opportunity to our community and promised ourselves the only way we would do it is if we could make it affordable, costing equal to or less than a phone bill. We were fortunate enough to achieve this goal and bring this service to our community.
Q: What does SouthernCord do and how will it improve human health and quality of life?
SouthernCord is a private blood bank which stores stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood. Cord blood stem cells can be morphed into several different cells. Currently, stem cells derived from cord blood are being used to treat several diseases, including some cancers, blood disorders and immunodeficiencies. Researchers are also looking at regenerating tissue using cord blood stem cells; for example, growing skin for burn victims. Additional research is being done in organ development. By preserving their stem cells for future use, our clients may be able to take advantage of these medical opportunities in the future, if needed.
Q: Why are we hearing more and more about cord banks?
Cord blood banking as an industry is very young, just a couple of decades old. The educational outreach of this program and its benefits have always been thwarted by the term “stem cells.” But now there are several cases within the U.S. and around the world in which people have actually rebuilt their lives from accidents or recovered from life-threatening diseases using cord blood stem cells.
Each year more than 35,000 American children and adults with life- threatening illnesses find themselves in need of a stem cell transplant. The growing need for a suitable stem cell match has garnered the attention of state lawmakers. In response to their constituents, representatives across the country are introducing legislation intended to help physicians and expectant parents become aware of their options for donating, discarding or banking lifesaving newborn stem cells. Currently 20 states (excluding Alabama) have enacted legislation recommended by the Institutes of Medicine guidelines. Physicians in those states have to disclose the benefits of umbilical cord blood banking to the expectant parents.
Q: Were you previously involved with the community’s biotech arena?
No, I have not been involved previously in the biotech arena. The most appealing thing about biotech to me, though, is the lifesaving opportunities it brings to the community, along with extensive entrepreneurial activity.
Q: Why is HudsonAlpha a good fit for SouthernCord?
An institute with world class researchers, budding entrepreneurs and community support that also teaches high school students and teachers about biotech, all under one state-of-the-art building! That is attractive to any entrepreneur. The people who work for HudsonAlpha and the private companies leasing space here give HudsonAlpha a small classroom feeling where relationships are nurtured and future CEOs are trained!
Q: What do you see as Huntsville’s role in the future of biotech?
I think biotech will definitely become a very significant part of Huntsville’s economy. All the mergers, acquisitions and new establishments of biotech companies in HudsonAlpha is a testament in itself.