Virgin Group entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, whose businesses range from airlines to mobile phones, launched one of his more unusual ventures Thursday - a stem cell storage bank.
The project will allow parents to preserve stem cells from their children's umbilical cords, which some believe could be used in future to treat conditions such as leukaemia, as an insurance policy against possible future illness.
Storage will cost 1 500 pounds but the scheme also has a charitable strand allowing some patients who need cord blood to access it for free.
Ethnic minorities targeted
Branson told BBC radio he was particularly targeting patients from ethnic minority groups who often struggle to locate suitable samples.
"What we've decided to do was to set up a company which can get out there and increase the number of samples dramatically.
"The profits that we make from that company that go back to the Virgin Group will then be put into a charitable foundation to help particularly the ethnic groups who have difficulty finding cord blood," he said.
Virgin is not the first company in Britain to offer the service, which has reportedly been used by celebrities including Arsenal and France football star Thierry Henry.
Some British doctors have called for the state-run National Health Service to set up a country-wide stem cell blood bank, following in the footsteps of countries such as Sweden. – (Sapa-AFP)