​Several private umbilical blood banks are operating in Israel, storing umbilical blood, which is harvested during childbirth for the infant and its family for a fee. There are also umbilical blood banks which retain donated umbilical blood for the benefit of the wider public, for use as a substitute to bone marrow transplants for patients for whom a suitable bone marrow donor cannot be found. New regulations concerning this issue have come into effect in November 2012, dealing with licensing of umbilical blood banks (private and public), and, ahead of the regulations taking effect, the Ministry of Health has begun to conduct inspections.
An inspection was conducted at the private umbilical blood bank “Biocord – The Life Bank”, under the management of Mr. Miki Shacham, which preceded the entry into force of the regulations, following a complaint which was received from the laboratory at which the tests and processing of the units of umbilical blood which were collected from the bank’s customers. Following the inspection, the Ministry instructed Mr. Shacham that he is forbidden to operate a new umbilical blood processing site before obtaining Ministry of Health approval for that site. For a limited period of time the umbilical blood units of the bank’s customers were processed at a different suitable processing site. During November the Ministry learned that Mr. Shacham and Biocord had begun, as of September 27, operating the new processing site – without Ministry approval.
An urgent inspection was therefore conducted at the site and many failures were found. Following these, a clear instruction was issued by the Ministry to Mr Shacham and to Biocord to cease immediately the withdrawal of new units of umbilical blood from customers, and to inform customers who had registered for the service but have not yet given birth, that it will not be possible to withdraw their blood units.
A simultaneous instruction was issued to Biocord and its manager to continue to store the units which are already stored in their deep freeze, until they receive further instructions.

Certain activities, which Biocord is forbidden to perform, have been taking place at the processing site without Ministry approval.
However, an inspection of the site in which the refrigerators are located and in which the Biocord customers’ umbilical blood units are kept, found that the frozen units are stored under proper conditions.
As of now, the Umbilical Blood Bank Biocord – the Life Bank does not have a Ministry of Health license and it does nor comply with the licensing requirements. The umbilical blood unit processing site is not licensed and it does not have Ministry of Health approval to process umbilical blood ahead of its being frozen; neither does it have a license to conduct the necessary tests on the blood units (counting the number of cells in the unit and the cells’ level of vitality – the measures indicative of the blood unit’s usefulness).
As of now the Biocord umbilical blood bank dies not have a medical director or a suitable quality assurance organization, and the processing site has a series of deficiencies which prevent the granting of a license to the bank at this time.
According to the umbilical blood law, Biocord is required to continue to store the already-deposited umbilical blood units from existing customers, under proper freezing conditions – until the company receives further instructions from the Ministry of Health.
At the same time, the Ministry has instructed Biocord to submit to the Ministry for evaluation each case where a customer has or will request that his or her blood unit be transferred to a different umbilical blood bank, as well as of any case in which Biocord seeks to cease to store a blood unit due to customer non-payment.
The Ministry of Health will continue to closely monitor the bank’s activities and will take its decisions according to the prevailing circumstances.