x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Dubai stem cell firm assures customers samples are safe despite takeover

Biovault Dubai has banked hundreds of samples from the UAE in the UK, but the laboratory went into administration this year raising concerns about those samples.

DUBAI // A company that sends stem cells for storage at a tissue bank in Britain is reassuring clients their samples are safe after the UK laboratory went into administration this year.

Biovault Dubai has hundreds of samples banked with Biovault Limited, one of the UK’s largest tissue banks.

Biovault Ltd went into administration on September 28, unable to pay its debts. It was acquired by Willowbond Limited, an investment vehicle, and has continued operating under the name Biovault International.

Clients pay to have their stem cells stored because of their potential to treat and possibly cure a variety of medical conditions, including heart disease, cerebral palsy, diabetes, lung disease and liver disease. Storage for 25 years with Biovault costs Dh12,850.

Denise De Wiest, chief executive of Biovault Dubai, said the samples were safe. “It’s business as usual,” she said. “Shares have changed hands but nothing has changed in the day to day administration of the firm.”

Ms De Wiest has been distributing a fact sheet to doctors with details of the continued workings of the parent company.

“There’s no danger to anyone’s samples. Now it’s a very secure and huge enterprise,” she said. “They have a lot of funds at their disposal.”

The laboratory, in Plymouth, southern England, has the highest accreditation from the Human Tissue Authority and banks both cord blood, which contains stem cells, as well as joint and other tissue.

The company is looking to set up a tissue bank outside the UK.

The UAE, Bahrain and Egypt had been considered as potential bases but Ms De Wiest said they were now looking at building in Pakistan.

It was hoped Biovault International in the UK would offer training and expertise in helping to set it up in return for partial ownership.

“We’ve given the proposals, but this is an ongoing thing,” Ms De Wiest said.

A spokesman for Biovault International said the largest shareholder of new owner Willowbond was the University of Plymouth.

The management of the company has not changed and the service continues as normal.

However, the spokesman declined to comment specifically on the relationship between Biovault International and its Dubai distributor.

“The contractual and service-level agreements between Biovault Ltd and its clients are in the process of being novated across to Biovault International or renegotiated as necessary,” the spokesman said.

mcroucher@thenational.ae