Skip Navigation

Assemblymember Portantino Receives National Marrow Donor Program’s Legislative Award

California lawmaker recognized for advancing public umbilical cord blood collection

June 08 2009

Assemblymember Anthony Portantino

Assemblymember Anthony Portantino

(D-La Cañada Flintridge) was recently honored by the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) for sponsoring legislation to establish and fund the California Umbilical Cord Blood Collection Program.

The NMDP serves as the nation’s Cord Blood Coordinating Center, partnering with public cord blood banks to build a strong network and increase the inventory of donated cord blood units available for patients on the Be The Match RegistrySM. Portantino accepted the NMDP’s C.W. Bill Young Congressional Award on June 5 at the 7th International Umbilical Cord Blood Transplantation Symposium in Los Angeles.

Umbilical cord blood – like bone marrow – is rich in blood-forming cells that can be used in transplants for patients with leukemia, lymphoma and many other life-threatening diseases. Despite its life saving potential, 97 percent of newborns’ umbilical cords are discarded in California instead of being publicly donated.

“Assemblyman Portantino has demonstrated a deep and sustained commitment to advancing public cord blood banking,” said Jeffrey W. Chell, M.D., NMDP chief executive officer. “He understands the critical role states play in providing financial support to expand opportunities for expectant parents to donate umbilical cord blood. We commend him for his hard work and dedication to ensuring that more patients have access to this therapy.”

In 2007, Portantino championed legislation which created the California Umbilical Cord Blood Collection Program and established a fund authorized to receive state, federal and private funding. In the current session, Portantino introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 52 which will generate an estimated $3 million a year to support the state’s public cord blood banking system – and ultimately make more cord blood units available to the thousands of patients in need of transplants. The bill would also provide details designed to ensure the program’s success and avoid duplication of national and international efforts to increase the supply of cord blood. 

Donated cord blood is collected from the umbilical cord and placenta immediately after a baby is born. After the cord blood is collected, it is stored at a public cord blood bank and the cord blood unit is listed on the NMDP’s Be The Match Registry. Patients and their doctors depend on the registry to find an unrelated cord blood unit or adult marrow donor. The NMDP partners with cord blood banks around the world to build a strong network and diverse inventory of donated cord blood units. In the past 12 months, nearly 900 transplants have been facilitated using cord blood units collected by public cord blood banks, including those in California.

“The issue of public cord blood banking is personal to me and I am honored to be recognized by the NMDP for my efforts,” said Assemblymember 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. I look forward to working with the NMDP to increase collections, especially from our most under-represented communities, and potentially saving thousands of lives.”

The NMDP’s C.W. Bill Young Congressional Award recognizes an elected official for legislative initiatives that increase awareness of marrow and cord blood transplantation and access to transplant. In 1986, U.S. Congressman C.W. Bill Young (R-FL) championed the NMDP’s efforts to strengthen the registry with the creation of what is now called the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program.  

Editor’s Note: Hi-res photos from the award ceremony are available upon request. Please contact Catherine Claeys at 612-455-1719 or

About the National Marrow Donor Program 
The National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) is a not-for-profit organization entrusted to operate the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program created by Congress in 2005. As a leader in the field of marrow and cord blood transplantation, the NMDP manages the national registry which provides a single point of access to adult donors and cord blood units for searching patients, facilitates transplants worldwide, conducts research to help transplant recipients live longer, healthier lives, and provides education to patients and health care professionals. The NMDP is dedicated to creating an opportunity for all patients to receive the transplant therapy they need. Since operations began in 1987, the NMDP has provided more than 35,000 transplants to help give patients a second chance at life.  For more information, please visit or call 1 (800) MARROW-2.