The award follows Portantino's 2007 legislation that created the California Umbilical Cord Blood Collection Program and his pending legislation, Assembly Bill 52, which will generate an estimated $3 million annually to support the public cord blood banking system.
Portantino's acceptance of the award at the esteemed International Umbilical Cord Blood Transplantation Symposium in Los Angeles represents the first time in three years that NMDP has named a recipient of the prestigious award. Previous recipients include former Washington Governor and current Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke.
"Assemblymember Portantino has championed public cord blood banking in California, putting the state at the cutting edge of this important medical advancement," said NMDP Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey W. Chell, M.D. "He has spearheaded a program that will provide opportunities for expectant parents to donate umbilical cord blood - a system that has the potential to save thousands of lives in the future."]
Umbilical cord blood is a rich source of blood-forming stem cells, which, like bone marrow, can be used to treat life-threatening genetic disorders that affect the blood and immune systems, such as leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia, certain cancers and other inherited diseases.
According to the NMDP, there are 35,000 people who could benefit from marrow or cord blood transplants each year, many of whom die as a result of being unable to find suitable matches. This problem is especially prevalent for people of color, who are less likely to find suitable matches for transplants.
Every year, 10,000 Americans are diagnosed with leukemia and other life-threatening diseases, and an unrelated marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant is their best or only hope for a cure. These patients do not have a family donor and depend on the NMDP's Be The Match RegistrySM to find a match. More publicly donated cord blood units and adult donors are needed, especially those from racially and ethnically diverse communities, to help increase the likelihood that all patients will find a match.
Despite its life-saving potential, 97% of California newborns' umbilical cords are discarded instead of being publicly donated.
"Cord blood banking is a very personal issue for me," said Assembly Mmember Portantino. "A close family friend is alive today thanks to a cord blood transplant, and as a father I experienced firsthand the challenges of donating my daughter's cord blood. Even before I was elected to the Assembly, I promised myself that I would do everything I could to advance the collection of these life-saving stem cells. I will continue to do everything I can to make them available to every Californian in need."
"I am honored to be recognized by the NMDP for my efforts, and I look forward to working with the organization to increase cord blood donations for public use, especially from under-represented communities, to potentially save thousands of lives in the future."
For more information about cord blood donations, visit www.BeTheMatch.org/cord or call 1(800)MARROW-2.