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History of Gift of Life

Headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida, Gift of Life is an international public bone marrow and blood stem cell registry. Through its life-saving work, Gift of Life is a world leader in facilitating transplants for children and adults suffering from many life-threatening diseases, like leukemia and lymphoma.

When he was diagnosed with leukemia, Jay Feinberg was told he would need a bone marrow transplant to survive. He had no idea that his personal journey would result in the establishment of a grassroots organization—Gift of Life. But that’s precisely what happened.

Jay’s story is one of transforming adversity into success. When he got sick, Jay was told that a transplant could save his life, but he would probably die before finding a matching donor. He quickly learned the reason why. A patient’s best chance of finding a genetic match lies with those of similar ethnic background. Unfortunately, the worldwide registry was not representative of all ethnic groups, and Jay was Jewish. There was an urgent need to add diversity to the registry, and time was of the essence.

Jay’s family and friends didn’t want to see him die needlessly. They wanted him to have an equal opportunity to find a match. So, they launched an ambitious grassroots donor recruitment campaign, resulting in the enrollment of tens of thousands of new donors in the worldwide registry. But after four years, they still couldn’t find a match for Jay, despite helping many other patients in need.

That’s when his miracle happened. A young man decided to run one last drive because his best friend had found a match through a drive held for Jay. He knew the odds were against him, but he was determined to return the gift. And that is exactly what he did.

Jay’s four year search for a donor came to a close in May 1995. The very last donor—tested at that very last drive—turned out to be his miracle match! Jay received his transplant a short time later at the world renowned Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle thanks to his miracle match, Becky, and a determined young man who wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Innovations at Gift of Life

Gift of Life is the only bone marrow and stem cell registry founded and headed by a transplant recipient.
1998
Gift of Life launches MatchQuest® , its new registry management system.
2001
Gift of Life becomes the first registry in the world to utilize bloodless testing at donor recruitment drives, ultimately making the cheek swab the global standard. Gift of Life launches online donor recruitment via its website.
2005
Gift of Life’s cord blood program is established.
2011
Gift of Life hosts its first Walk for Life 5k, now known as Steps for Life.
2014
Gift of Life founds the Campus Ambassador Program to ramp up recruiting of the most requested donors, those between 18 and 35 years old.
2017
Gift of Life launches SwabApp and revolutionizes how donors sign up at donor recruitment drives.
2019
Gift of Life opens the first registry-integrated apheresis center – the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Gift of Life – Be The Match Collection Center – reducing the crucial time period between identification of a stem cell donor and transplantation, and developing a best-in-class hospitality-based donor experience.
2020
Gift of Life opens its Center for Cell and Gene Therapy to fuel advances in cellular therapy, including a laboratory offering intermediate and high complexity testing (flow cytometry and hematology), automated and manual cell processing, cell selection, cryopreservation and banking services.
2021
Gift of Life Biologics launched as a source of high quality, consistent, timely and cost-effective starting material for cell and gene therapy developers, powering research through commercialization.