Media Release


The Sunflower Fund

[13 November 2019] A baby’s umbilical cord contains blood and tissue, which is a rich source of valuable stem cells. Stem cells are the body’s internal repair kit and have the potential to regenerate and repair damaged tissue.

Current treatments, like stem cell transplants (also called bone marrow transplants) already make use of their potential to regenerate healthy blood and immune systems. That is why it has been used globally for more than thirty years to help regenerate patients’ healthy blood and immune systems in more than 40 000 stem cell transplants.

CELVI is the only hybrid private cord blood bank in Africa. The hybrid model gives parents the opportunity to store their baby’s newborn stem cells for their family and additionally, make it donatable to a patient in need of a life-saving stem cell transplant.

“Our story started 23 years ago when my then nine-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. In a world of tests, doctors and desperation, she needed a miracle cure to stay alive. The only potential cure was a matched sibling donor stem cell transplant, but she had no siblings”, says Erna West Co-Founder and CEO of CELVI.

“Out of desperation, I was tested and found to be a 100% tissue match. The stem cell transplant saved her life and mine was changed to one with a new purpose: to give back to this community in any way I possibly could,” West continued.

After a journey of two decades gaining experience and meeting people with a shared vision, CELVI was born. The team’s mission is to provide options of lifesaving treatments, made possible with new-born cord blood and tissue stem cells.

CELVI, in collaboration with Next Biosciences and the Sunflower Fund, is embarking on an exciting journey to save more lives and want you to be a part of it. By storing your baby’s newborn stem cells with CELVI, it will also be registered on the Sunflower Fund Stem Cell Registry. Should it be identified as a potential match for a patient, you will have the obligation free option of donating it to help save the life of someone in need of a life-saving stem cell transplant.

The Sunflower Fund fights blood diseases like leukemia by recruiting potential stem cell donors and maintaining a registry of committed donors willing to help anyone in need of a life-saving transplant.
Patients only have a 30% chance of finding a match from within their family. The remaining 70% chance is from an unrelated matching donor.

“The Sunflower Fund is a member of the World Marrow Donor Association and has been recruiting adult stem cell donors for the past 19 years. The partnership with CELVI enables us to serve patients through the additional option of finding a match from the cord blood registry,” says Alana James, CEO of The Sunflower Fund.

“This is another step towards getting more patients to transplant,” James concluded.

To register and store your child’s cord blood with CELVI contact +27 10 013 1225 Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm.
For more information about The Sunflower Fund contact 0800 12 10 82 or visit

About The Sunflower Fund:

The Sunflower Fund is a donor recruitment centre and stem cell registry that is part of a global network, dedicated to creating awareness about blood diseases and stem cell donation, recruiting blood stem cell donors and maintaining a registry of committed donors.

The Sunflower Fund pays for the cost of the tissue-type testing. This is fundamental to saving the lives of South Africans who need a stem cell transplant.
The chance of finding a matching donor is 1 in 100,000 – and as ethnic origin plays a significant role in the search for a donor, South Africa’s rainbow nation is at a distinct disadvantage, requiring a large pool of prospective donors.

Should you wish to become a donor, support one of the fundraising projects or make a financial contribution, please contact The Sunflower Fund on the toll-free number: 0800 12 10 82 or via WhatsApp 074 715 0212. You can also visit to learn more or look out for the DONATE button to make a cash donation via the website.

Released on behalf of The Sunflower Fund by:
Traci Sassenberg
Tel: 021 701 0661
Cell: 083 303 9200

For more information or for interviews contact: Traci Sassenberg or Kim Webster on 021 701 0661.

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The treating doctor will determine the use of cord blood for treatment, depending on many factors, including the patient’s medical condition, the quality of the cord blood sample, if the patient’s own cord blood can be used or an adequately matched donor’s cord blood.The use of cord blood has been established in stem cell transplantation and has been used to treat more than 80 diseases. The use of cord blood in regenerative medicine is still being researched and there is no guarantee that treatments being studied in the laboratory, clinical trials, or other experimental treatments will be available in the future.The use of cord tissue stem cells is still in early research stages, and there is no guarantee that treatments using cord tissue stem cells will be available in the future. Cord tissue stem cells are found in the cord tissue which is stored whole. Additional processing will be required to isolate the stem cells from the tissue for use. CELVI (Pty) Ltd outsources all cord blood and tissue processing and storage activities to Next Biosciences in Midrand, South Africa, a licensed and AABB accredited facility.

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