In today’s post I review the cord blood firm Cryo Cell International and discuss specific concerns I have about it.
A major issue is their plan to open a clinic selling unproven cord cell infusions to kids. I believe this is risky both for the firm and more importantly for the children.
What is Cryo Cell?
Cryo Cell International is a private, for-profit cord blood banking firm.
Cord blood banking companies store umbilical cord blood for potential future use. The blood is kept frozen in large liquid nitrogen freezers, where the cells are stable for decades if conditions are ideal.
Cryo Cell seeks to get more involved in clinical research in coming years.
A more specific goal is to evolve into generating a substantial amount of revenue in a new way via unproven cord blood infusions of children. This means that they would go beyond just storing cord blood to administering it as a therapy. That would be a huge transition. Can they pull it off?
Dubious cord cell therapies
My main concern with the firm is this relatively new plan to sell unproven cord blood offerings to children.
These would be administered via an infusion clinic based on a partnership with the Duke Autism Center. While different conditions would be treated, a main focus is going to be on autism.
The big problem here is that there is no evidence that cord blood infusions help kids with autism. There is also no evidence that these infusions would help cerebral palsy or other neurological conditions in children, which also apparently will nonetheless be marketed.
Risks from the infusion clinic plan
We also have to think about risks. While cord blood infusions are generally safe, there are risks to what Duke and Cryo Cell are doing and plan to do.
For instance, children can have infusion reactions after getting the cord cells.
Also, some children that Duke has already been infusing based on an FDA cleared expanded access program have been sedated in order to get the infusion. That sedation brings its own risks. Since there is no clear benefit of the cord blood infusions, is the rather intense step of sedating children ethically justified?
I’ve written extensively about my ethical and policy concerns with this Duke Cryo Cell collaboration. I believe this clinic plan would take advantage of vulnerable kids and their families. Beyond the risks to the children’s health from the infusions, the team’s efforts give a hit to family finances.
The main goal seems to be to generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue, which would come from the families of the kids.
Overall, I don’t see much of an upside for the children and their families.
Cryo Cell reviews
Clearly, I have strong views on Cryo Cell and the Duke Autism Center. What about other reviews of Cryo Cell?
Looking on the Better Business Bureau website, Cryo-Cell has generated quite a few complaints from customers. One of the main issues seems to be when patients want to cancel the service.
On the positive side, many of the complaints have been resolved.
The firm also has very positive reviews on Yelp overall, but I don’t see any reviews of any kind since 2020.
When searching for Cryo Cell on the web, the website Glass Door popped up. The reviews from employees are very mixed. Some strong opinions both ways.
An article in Motherboard details additional concerns on the Cryo Cell – Duke clinic plan.
CCEL stock and future
The firm has had a rough time in terms of its stock lately.
The price is way down. See the above chart for Cryo Cell, symbol CCEL.
Overall, I’m not that optimistic about the firm’s future. Much depends on whether Duke researchers can finally generate some kind of encouraging results with cord cells in clinical trials. That could happen, but so far the trial results in my view have been almost completely discouraging.
It’s very possible that in the long run Cryo Cell will remain mainly a cord blood banking firm.
I have called on the FDA to freeze the expanded access program for cord cells for autism at Duke, which is the foundation for the new infusion clinics since what they are offering is unproven. In the year since I called for the freeze, I have not seen any news about the program.
Cryo-Cell now aims to open the first infusion clinic next year.