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Our History

NMDPSM, is a nonprofit organization that provides cures to patients with life-threatening blood and marrow cancers and diseases. Through our global network, we connect centers and patients to their best cell therapy option—from blood stem cell transplant to a next-generation therapy—and collaborate with cell and gene therapy companies to support therapy development and delivery through NMDP BioTherapies®. We operate the NMDP Registry®, support patients through no-cost programs to eliminate non-medical barriers to treatment, and conduct research through through the CIBMTR ® (Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research®)—a collaboration with Medical College of Wisconsin. From very humble beginnings and a hope to serve, to where we are today, our dedication to saving lives through cellular therapy has never wavered. Our story started in 1979.

A story born of love for a child

When their 10-year-old daughter Laura was diagnosed with leukemia, Robert Graves, D.V.M., and his wife Sherry were ready to do anything they could to save her. Desperate to save her life, they turned to alternative treatment options and Laura became the first ever patient with leukemia to undergo a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor.

Laura received her transplant in September 1979, and the donated cells engrafted in her body without complications. Laura survived for two years after her transplant, but she sadly died from a relapse of her leukemia. However, her initial complete recovery established that unrelated donor marrow transplantation was feasible, which inspired Laura's family to give other families the same hope for a cure. Thanks to Sherry and Dr. Graves, other patient families, doctors, congressional support, and funding from the United States Navy, a national registry of volunteers willing to donate bone marrow was born.

Laura Graves story

Our first 10,000 donors step forward

Many people wondered who would step forward to donate bone marrow to a stranger. Within the first year the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry (as we were called then) was established, an astonishing 10,000 donors answered the call. We conducted our first transplant in December 1987 when Diane Walters of Wisconsin donated bone marrow to 6-year-old Brooke Ward of North Carolina. The next year, we changed our name to the National Marrow Donor Program®, and it wasn't long before the National Marrow Donor Program took off worldwide from a tiny office at the American Red Cross in St. Paul, Minnesota. Today, we are known as the NMDP.

Investing in research

Beyond establishing the registry, we also invested in research to expand treatment options and improve outcomes for patients.

  • 1990 - Nobel Prize in Medicine is awarded to Dr. E. Donnell Thomas for discoveries in cellular transplantation
  • 1993 - Peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) is used for the first time in transplant facilitated by NDMP
  • 1999 - Launches the NMDP's umbilical cord blood transplant program
  • 2001 - Builds the NMDP Sample Repository, one of the world's largest tissue sample storage facilities used for medical research
  • 2004 - Partners with the Medical College of Wisconsin to establish our research collaboration, the CIBMTR® (Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research)
  • 2012 - Completes more than 700 peer-reviewed publications based on research conducted
  • 2016 – Launches NMDP BioTherapies®, an extension of our mission to save lives through cellular therapy, by partnering with cell and gene therapy developers to empower the discovery, development and delivery of next-generation therapies
  • 2017 – Expands operations to Mexico by establishing NMDP Mexico® to better meet the needs of our patient population
  • 2019 – Opens the Gift of Life – NMDP Collection Center in Boca Raton, Florida, in partnership with the Gift of Life Marrow Registry to increase collection capacity and enhance donation experience
  • 2019 - 100,000th patient receives transplant facilitated by the NMDP
  • 2020 – Opens the Seattle Collection Center in Washington, a fully owned, non-profit subsidiary of the NMDP

Advancing the future of care

Today, the cell therapy industry is rapidly evolving. We continue to work tirelessly to remove barriers to treatment—and facilitate access to the best cell therapy for a patient’s disease. Together with our network of global centers, we continue to conduct research to improve patient outcomes, evolve therapies and find better ways to treat patients. Learn more about how we will work to advance the future of patient care.