Traditional topping-off ceremony puts a final beam in place at Upstate Cord Blood Bank

One of the last remaining steel beams in the construction on the Upstate Cord Blood Bank was put into place during a traditional topping off ceremony Sept. 22. The beam sporting a fir tree and American flag was hoisted into the air after the go ahead was given by New York state Sen. John DeFrancisco, a champion of the project who helped secure $15 million to fund the construction.

The facility is being built at Upstate University Hospital’s Community Campus, and is expected to open in 2016. The facility recently underwent a redesign and its focus was widened to serve as a family bank in addition to a public cord bank.

“The expansion of the building’s purpose to include family banking is an exciting prospect for this community,” said Nicholas Greco, PhD, Upstate Cord Blood Band executive director and tissue bank director. “The topping off ceremony at the construction site marks a significant milestone as we are one step closer to opening a facility that will serve a need in this community.”

When opened, the facility will be one of only two public cord banks in New York. As a public blood bank, there is no cost to donate and donated cord blood is available to anyone who needs it. The facility will seek to provide a cure for children and adults with life-threatening illnesses who find themselves in need of a stem cell transplant.

With family banking, cord blood stem cells belong to a specific family. They are not available to the general public and cannot be used without the permission of those from whom they were sourced. Parents who choose to bank their child’s cord blood stem cells for family use typically do so because they feel that saving the cord blood offers a form of “medical insurance,” a guarantee that related stem cells will be immediately available if medically required, Greco explained.

As a public bank, the Upstate Cord Blood Bank will collect, process and store umbilical cord blood donated by families throughout central and northern New York. Umbilical cord blood is blood that remains in the placenta and umbilical cord after childbirth; it is a rich source of hematopoietic stem cells that have the potential of being used in the treatment of dozens of diseases, like cancer and sickle cell anemia. The opening of the Upstate Cord Blood Bank will allow doctors in Upstate New York and internationally to use the umbilical cord, and its stem cells—that would otherwise be discarded as medical waste—for life-saving treatments and research.

A topping off ceremony is a tradition at major construction sites. The tradition dates back to 700 A.D., when it was introduced by the Scandinavians as a way of bestowing good luck on a building’s soon-to-be occupants. A final beam, usually decorated with a fir tree and a flag, is hoisted into place during the ceremony.

The Upstate Cord Blood Bank is being built with Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Silver requirements to ensure energy efficiency as approved by the U.S. Green Building Council. The building’s design, construction work and equipment is made possible by a $15 million state grant secured by DeFrancisco.

For more information, visit Cord Blood Bank.

Caption: One of the final steel beams for the new Upstate Cord Blood Bank is lowered into place Tuesday, Sept. 22, during a traditional topping off ceremony.

Back to Feature Stories →