The Arizona Public Cord Blood Program is a publicly funded program working to save lives through cord blood collection for transplant and support the discovery of new treatments and cures. Program partners organize and host an annual scientific conference to educate Arizonans about umbilical cord blood collection, current uses, and cutting-edge science.

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Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg
Duke University School of Medicine

Dr. Kurtzberg is an internationally renowned expert in pediatric hematology/oncology, pediatric blood and marrow transplantation, umbilical cord blood banking and transplantation, and novel applications of cord blood and birthing tissues in the emerging fields of cellular therapies and regenerative medicine.   Dr. Kurtzberg serves as the Director of the Marcus Center for Cellular Cures (MC3), Director of the Pediatric Transplant and Cellular Therapy Program, Director of the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank, and Co-Director of the Stem Cell Transplant Laboratory at Duke University.  The Carolinas Cord Blood Bank is an FDA licensed public cord blood bank distributing unrelated cord blood units for donors for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) through the CW Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program.  The Robertson GMP Cell Manufacturing Laboratory supports manufacturing of RETHYMIC (BLA, Enzyvant, 2021), allogeneic cord tissue derived and bone marrow derived mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), and DUOC, a microglial/macrophage cell derived from cord blood.

Dr. Kurtzberg’s research in MC3 focuses on translational studies from bench to bedside, seeking to develop transformative clinical therapies using cells, tissues, molecules, genes, and biomaterials to treat diseases and injuries that currently lack effective treatments. Recent areas of investigation in MC3 include clinical trials investigating the safety and efficacy of autologous and allogeneic cord blood in children with neonatal brain injury – hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), cerebral palsy (CP), and autism. Clinical trials testing allogeneic cord blood are also being conducted in adults with acute ischemic stroke. Clinical trials optimizing manufacturing and testing the safety and efficacy of cord tissue MSCs in children with autism, CP and HIE and adults with COVID-lung disease are underway. DUOC, given intrathecally, is under study in children with leukodystrophies and adults with primary progressive multiple sclerosis.

In the past, Dr. Kurtzberg has developed novel chemotherapeutic drugs for acute leukemias, assays enumerating ALDH bright cells to predict cord blood unit potency, methods of cord blood expansion, potency assays for targeted cell and tissue based therapies. Dr. Kurtzberg currently holds several INDs for investigational clinical trials from the FDA.  She has also trained numerous medical students, residents, clinical and post-doctoral fellows over the course of her career.

Dr. Filippo Milano
Clinical Research Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Dr. Filippo Milano is a physician-scientist whose research is focused on the use of umbilical cord blood as a source of stem cells for transplantation to treat blood cancers. He concentrates on clinical practice improvements with a goal of increasing the number of patients eligible for transplantation and to improve clinical outcomes for those who receive cord blood transplants. He has carried out pivotal analyses of blood cancer patients who have received transplants, comparing outcomes of cord blood recipients with those who had blood stem cell transplants from unrelated donors. Dr. Milano also studies the use of an experimental, off-the-shelf cord blood product designed to extend immunological protection to recipients of cord blood transplants until their donated cells are fully engrafted and proliferating.

Current Projects

Impact of Non HLA-matched off-the-shelf ex-vivo expanded cord blood progenitors on outcomes in patients undergoing cord blood transplantation

Use of Non HLA-matched off-the-shelf ex-vivo expanded cord blood progenitors for patients with HIV undergoing cord blood transplantation

Evaluation of the use of Treosulfan as part of the conditioning regimen in patients undergoing cord blood transplantation and haploidentical transplant

Use of TCR gene therapy to cure viral infections in patients undergoing cord blood transplantation

Use of a new molecule (UM171) to expand cord blood progenitors


Dr. John Wagner
University of Minnesota

John E. Wagner, M.D., is a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Blood and Marrow Transplant & Cellular Therapy. He is the Founding Director of the new Institute of Cell, Gene and Immunotherapeutics at the University of Minnesota. Co-Director of the Center for Translational Medicine, and holds two endowed chairs—Children's Cancer Research Fund/Hageboeck Family Chair in Childhood Cancer Research, and the University of Minnesota McKnight-Presidential Chair.

Dr. Wagner's research is focused on the development of novel cell therapies for treatment of life threatening diseases. Examples include the development of regulatory T cells that could be used in the treatment of autoimmunity, organ graft rejection as well as graft-versus-host disease, thymic progenitors to repair damaged immune systems, cardiac myoblasts to reverse heart failure, skeletal myoblasts to repair or replace dystrophic muscle fibers in muscular dystrophy, and expansion of the blood-forming stem cell to speed blood and marrow recovery after high doses of chemotherapy and radiation. Dr. Wagner is best known for his pioneering work on the use of placental/cord blood as a source of stem cells for transplantation – a procedure that has now been performed in more than 50,000 patients worldwide.

Dr. Mark Walters
University of California, San Francisco

Mark C. Walters, MD, is the Jordan Family Director of the Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Benioff Children’s Hospital, Oakland and professor and interim Chief, Hematology division in the Department of Pediatrics at UCSF School of Medicine.  He is Program Director of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine alpha stem cell clinic at UCSF.  He has been active in cooperative clinical transplantation trials and has led several NIH-supported investigations of hematopoietic cell transplantation for sickle cell anemia and thalassemia.  Currently, research interests are focused on genomic editing and gene addition therapies as a strategy to extend curative therapy in all patients who inherit a clinically significant hemoglobinopathy.

John Cover
Crown Peak Industries

John has over 24 years of blood and tissue banking experience with 17 years in whole body donation and tissue transplant. John developed Arizona's first placenta recovery program and is currently working in placenta processing for wound healing grafts. John previously held pivotal roles with Vitalent, American Red Cross Biomedical Services, Science Care, Transplant For Life & Research For Life. John also served as a Governor appointed Commissioner with the Arizona Biomedical Research Centre.

Barbara Torrey
Gilbert Public Schools

Barbara Torrey currently works as the K-12 Science Coordinator at Gilbert Public Schools.  She previously served as the STEM Coordinator and Biomedical Science Instructor at Red Mountain High School in the Mesa Public School district.   Named Teacher of the Year in 2012, Barbara was also a recipient of the ASBA/ASA Golden Bell Award in 2015.  Barbara has over 22 years of teaching experience ranging from freshmen in high school to seniors in college.

Barbara’s mission is to motivate learners and ignite a spark of passion in the sciences.  She wholeheartedly believes learners need an interconnection between the content, current events and students’ own background knowledge.  Barbara brings this passion into the classrooms with hands-on, real world projects, STEM career connections and community outreach opportunities.  

Barbara enjoys spending time with her family and friends, gardening, and training the new addition to their family, Fergus the poodle. 

Jeffrey Wilson
MD Anderson Cord Blood Bank

Jeffrey Wilson is the Assistant Director of the MD Anderson Cord Blood Bank. He has twenty-five years of experience working in the field of stem cell transplantation and cellular therapy, specializing in cGMP compliant manufacturing, and information systems. In his current position he is responsible for oversight of the day-to-day operations of the cord blood bank program and cGMP/ISO 7 manufacturing facility. Previously, Jeffrey managed the cGMP manufacturing laboratory at Baylor College of Medicine's Center for Cell and Gene Therapy.