LIFECELL, INDIA’S LARGEST STEM CELL BANK DISPENSING DIAGNOSTICS AND PREVENTIVE CARE SOLUTIONS
Umbilical Cord Stem cell banking, the promising window in the healthcare sector of the emerging economy has gained a high volume of regard over time, particularly in India.
Cementing this global dispersion of diagnostics and preventive healthcare solutions for mother and child is LifeCell International, India’s first and the largest stem cell bank. They have successfully served the trust of more than 3 lakh parents to bank their child’s stem cell safely with the company.
Established in 2004, it was founded in technological collaboration with Cryo-Cell International, the world’s first private stem cell bank with more than 25 years of operational excellence. Today LifeCell has state-of-the-art laboratories at Chennai & Gurugram and a network spread over 200 service centres on the home ground & footprints in GCC countries. The two major divisions and the revenue generators of the company, BioBank (Stem Cell Banking) and Diagnostics (mother & baby diagnostic services) are under the hegemony of Ishaan Khanna, Chief Executive Officer, LifeCell International.
MEET THE GUIDING FORCE
Ishaan Khanna holds a Masters’ Degrees in Biotechnology & Enterprise along with Genetic Toxicology from the University of Manchester. He comes with techno-commercial expertise has worked as a scientist (Gentronix Ltd. UK, FSC, UK) and then in the domain of International Business Development (Avesthagen Ltd., Cristol, peCLAMP).
He has been exposed to various organizations in Biotech, Pharma and Chemical Industries in India, Australia, and the UK. He was a part of the Indian Government’s Sustainability project conducted in partnership with Australia bringing in expertise from the biotech sector. Before taking charge as CEO recently, Ishaan was holding a charge as Business Head of ‘Newborn Screening’ and ‘Prenatal Screening’ services for over 6 years and has been instrumental in the conception and scale-up of these businesses.
FROM PAST TO THE PRESENT SCENARIO
LifeCell started as the first cord blood bank in the country. It was started to bring in a concept of cord blood stem cell banking in India, though the concept existed globally India was still alien to the concept. The founders of the company decided that our country needed this concept, with the status of being the land of the highest number of births; it was only logical and medically useful.
The access to a medical service of this nature could potentially treat several medical conditions. Hence, cord blood banking was introduced in India and since then the company has evolved a lot.
The company today is the most accredited stem cell bank with certifications from national and international organizations for standards. LifeCell is also the only player in the industry with the novel initiative of community stem cell banking that has been globally recognised & appreciated at many forums.
The revolutionary enterprise comprehends the larger global need for stem cell banking and has embarked on a journey to provide comprehensive diagnostic and preventive healthcare solutions for mother & baby to reduce the high disease burden and high mortality rate among newborns in the country.
THE CORE VISION
The primary drive for this stem cell bank is to boost awareness regarding the benefits of their services, the future is now. With India being one of the largest birthing countries, presently it is the temple of umbilical cord blood harvesting. With brands like LifeCell making their mark in the market, the scenario only presents the picture of the growing stem cell industry.
LifeCell strives to become the world’s largest stem cell solutions provider with the leading repository of lifesaving stem cell assets and thereby contributing significantly to the ever-developing scope of stem cell transplant medicine. They also want to minimize the high disease burden in India and ensuring that every baby born in this country is healthy by providing high quality diagnostic and preventive care services.
With their charge to maximize the possibility of good health for the future generations of the country, they’re hustling to preserve the hope of a healthy future for the entire family by delivering the potential of stem cells. They strongly believe in giving every baby and the family the right to a healthy life through preventive diagnostic healthcare services.
LifeCell launched “Right Start” in October 2018 last year, and it came out to be a very strong upgrade from the 2012 launch of the newborn screening program. The newborn screening program did not have a lot of acknowledgment and presence in India, regardless of it is extremely popular around the world.
“India is a country contributing to the highest number of births; it needed a service and a test like this for newborns because there are a lot of disorders that infants are born with, that are not immediately diagnosed at birth. There are hidden conditions that are called congenital disorders or inborn errors that have debilitating effects on the health of the child if not diagnosed early” adds Ishaan.
The awareness about newborn screening has geared up in our country since the advent of this program. Modifications according to the needs have been taking place to merge the genetic aspect to it as well. Not just the babies are screened for this test but if the test results are positive, genetic reflex is also provided for the absolute diagnosis of the child, right at the time of birth to help the doctors treat and manage the condition better. Pioneering this space and program has been a big revolution for the organization in a way this plan will be looked upon in this country and across the world now.
THE DIAGNOSTICS PLATFORM
At a personal level, Ishaan feels that he has contributed to the building up of the diagnostics platform at LifeCell International. Before diagnostics came into the picture for the company it was majorly about cord blood banking which is the primary business to date. However, adding diagnostic as a chief vertical has amplified the growth of the organization in terms of a monthly and yearly base.
Ishaan further adds, “I think what I have been able to bring in is the “Thought Process”, through our cord blood banking business we had access to the expecting parents and were interacting with gynaecologists. We had a captive audience available with us and to ensure providing additional services such as Diagnostics was a big move for the company and the way the organization is looked at.”
The platform of diagnostics was an impactful shift within the organization, it felt like accelerating a start-up within the organization. The infancy phase for this division was all about a couple of people with a few hundred samples picked up from across the country each month. From where this initiative started, today they are not just the largest cord blood bank in the country but also the largest newborn screening provider from a private perspective.
Ishaan emphasizes, “In diagnostics, our focus is primarily on the mother and child segment, we offer tests in the prenatal and the newborn spaces and we are also planning to enter therapeutics. In all, we are trying to build is an organization on three big platforms cells, genes, and tissues.”
Ishaan largely helped in erecting the structure within the organization and ensured that diagnostics grows into a mature project with continuous innovation occurring every day. It holds a strong position within the organizational structure and churns out high growth.
INFUSING TECHNOLOGY AND SUSTAINABILITY
LifeCell is constantly partnering with the most excellent innovations in the world to access leading stem cell technologies and bring the best in class cellular therapies to India and create a positive impact by providing sustainable healthcare solutions for women and children.
“With my experience in India and countries abroad in seeing how healthcare has been tackled, building a program like “Diagnostics Programme” in itself made certain that we not only do it for the commercial purposes but we also do it for the intension that healthcare services bring an eradicable change in the way they are provided”, shares Ishaan.
The newborn screening or prenatal testing technology brought into India by LifeCell has introduced new ways in which the process should orchestrate. The concept of “Technical Innovation” in cord blood banking follows a module called “Community Banking” which is not being adopted by any player in the country and abroad. This is something that they foresee as probably the next big thing in the vertical. In the bigger picture for Ishaan and the organization, both, the contribution will always channel to this cause and the relative healthcare services they are striving to provide.
R&D OF THE CHANGING SCENARIO
Many things keep transforming with each day, a lot of new technological innovations barge into the picture and the space that LifeCell serves, it is a slave to new researches, therapies, disorders, etc that requires brainstorming over impactful treatment procedures. A lot of research and development goes into this and the team at the organization is a mix of expert scientists with global experiences that bring to the table innovation, knowledge and skills with them. They keep exposing themselves to the market, open to new ideas, intelligent sources, suggestions, buffer for improvement and more.
Ishaan avows, “We participate in conferences across the world to see what’s happening in the developed countries and what can we adapt and contribute to them. While we are an organization that caters to India, our horizons are global because we want to bring in the best medical standards and healthcare to the country that is obtainable from around the world. So we ensure that we are up to date.”
ROLE OF THE GOVERNMENT
The percentage of the population that is on target for the availing of services of LifeCell is comparatively small. The reason is that the tests that are available with the organization are out of pocket tests and the people who are dependent on the support from the government or public healthcare machinery lack access to such services.
The government has the opportunity to contribute, today, we see that the State Government has started a few pilot programs and initiatives at a smaller scale to include the local populations, arrange tests and provide healthcare services to them. The biggest opportunity lies today in a public-private partnership where the government becomes open to working with private organizations and see how the best of the two worlds can provide the finest healthcare solutions in India.
India, by the size of its population, providing healthcare services to every individual with the same quality and the same penetration is not an easy task. It has to distribute, the government alone may not be able to handle the pressure, and so combining forces with the private organizations that have a global presence in India could prove to be a boon.
Ishaan states, “If you look at LifeCell itself, we have a presence in more than 200 cities in the country so that allows us to reach to places and do things more productively and efficiently.”
They provide a transformative experience for employees in their career paths, enabling them to realize their true potential and conduct operations responsibly to uphold the business and deliver on our promises to our clients. They encourage the primary commitment among their employees to serve their customers with pride for their decision to choose LifeCell as their partner in their future health and while at it, maintain honesty, integrity and ethics in work culture both internal and external to the organization.
“Over the years of working in India and abroad, I have had the opportunity to work with all kinds of bosses and I have learned how to handle a team. So I try to benchmark myself against that and ensure that I strive to do better each day”, asserts Ishaan.
At LifeCell, a flat organizational structure is followed where nobody is inaccessible and people don’t have to think twice before they want to reach out to the leadership team in the organization. The founders of the company have developed this culture and it has been imbibed by all. Although a hierarchy exists on the paper, there is no hierarchy as such. The company lives by an open door policy and feedbacks are welcomed to ensure the growth of the organization from all aspects. The vibe is friendly and the relation between the employer and the employees is cordial.
GIVING BACK TO SOCIETY
The CSR arm of the company, LifeCell foundation actively partakes in various initiatives of the community and encourages the healthcare side of it, this being the core service of the organization, the participation in this vertical is the most.
Ishaan further adds, “Even in the association with a few government-run hospitals, we try and set up camps and run programs for the people who may not be able to afford the services we provide. We try to channel our social responsibilities towards such causes.”
LifeCell International is looking forward to continuing its journey and expansion in terms of geographical presence. Looking at it from the perspective of diagnostics, soon they would be set up outside of their core laboratories i.e. Chennai. And since the business has expanded, they would start processing ways in which they can provide services cheaper, better, and faster, for which they would have to be closer to their doctors and patients.
They are building strongly on the three mentioned platforms, the fundamentals of cells, genes, and tissues, at which LifeCell presently operate. A lot of technical innovation has seeped into the frame from the end of Cord Blood Banking; further, the innovation would be in the processing and expansion of stem cells while at the same time more avenues would be added to the segment of mother and child. The sustained focus for LifeCell International is always going to be working towards the betterment of this segment.
LifeCell International, being the industry leader in sustaining its position with securing a quest to never slow down on innovation. They are reaching out to a constantly growing number of expecting parents with disruptive processes and technical innovations. They are opening new doors to adding technologies that could offer low-cost solutions and finding new ways to arrange a model that encourages a more inclusive business.
“We ensure that we are never lazy, we never try to slow down and utilize the performance pressure to our best capacity and aim to make the business more robust every day.”