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How recent legislation and education helped this cord blood banking company double its business in just three years.
Founder Dr. Robert Chow
As we process applications for the 2010 Inc. 500 | 5000, we thought it would be worthwhile to shine a spotlight on some of the companies that are vying to appear on our ranking of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. One that caught our eye was the Covina, California-based StemCyte.
On Christmas Eve of 1997, while other people were spending the holiday with family or simply enjoying the vacation from work or school, Dr. Robert Chow was giving birth to his company. Though he didn't orchestrate it for that reason, in retrospect he sees a certain poetic symbolism in the timing of StemCyte's inception. While many patients have trouble finding a bone marrow or cord blood match, it can be especially challenging "for ethnic and racial minorities," Chow says. "We do have a very hard time finding matches that would ensure safe and efficacious stem cell transplants." When someone receives a cord blood transplant "their blood type changes. They're like a chimera. They have the DNA of themselves and the DNA of the donor and so they are already having a rebirth." At the tender age of 12, the company is meeting its goal of increasing the diversity of America's donor libraries. And lobbying and legislation are aiding the process. According to Calvin Cole, the company's president, there are now roughly 25 states that have laws in place to educate parents about cord blood banking, a process that allows vital stem cells to be salvaged for later use in treatment of leukemia and over 70 other conditions. Now that Chow has coaxed the company into its adolescence he still plays a very active role as its global medical director handling regulatory and other issues for the U.S. headquarters as well as branches in India and Taiwan. But he now has the luxury to delegate."I like to take a back seat. We have a great board and they have recruited the right people for every stage of the company," Chow says. We also "have a very good reputation and my job as a founder is to make sure that we keep that up."