GenCure cellular therapy leader named to NMDP board of directors

October 18, 2016

Yvonne Ybarra, director of cellular therapy for GenCure, a subsidiary of the San-Antonio based nonprofit biotech BioBridge Global, has been named chair of the Council Advisory Group (CAG) of the National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP). She took the role on Oct. 1 and is now a voting member of the NMDP board of directors.

The NMDP’s Be The Match® program facilitates transplants of bone marrow and cord blood for those facing leukemia, lymphoma and other blood cancers; conducts research; provides support and resources for patients; and provides education for physicians. Volunteer donors join the marrow registry in hopes of being a match for and donating to a patient in need of a cure. With a swab of the inside of the cheek, donors join people around the world who want to help save lives.

Ybarra joined GenCure, which supports and enables regenerative medicine, in 2000 and manages its marrow donor programs: recruitment, donor center, apheresis center and clinical apheresis services. GenCure cellular therapy is the South Texas registry recruitment, donor and apheresis center for Be The Match.

“The role of Council Advisory Group (CAG) for NMDP is to provide continuity and communication between the NMDP network of 500 organizations and the board of directors,” said Dr. Jeffrey Chell, chief executive officer of the NMDP. “Yvonne has distinguished herself as a member of the CAG, as she has her entire career.”

Ybarra served as vice chair on the CAG for two years; as chair she will be a member of the NMDP board with full voting privileges.

“The chair of the CAG is the voice of the networks on the board. Yvonne has been instrumental in making sure that voice is heard. She’s been recognized throughout the domestic network for her leadership and for continuing to bring ideas to members and to the board about guidance for donor recruitment, membership and other critical parts of the NMDP mission,” Chell said.

Ybarra also is vice chair of the NMDP Diversity and Disparities Advisory Group; is a member of the NMDP Board Development Committee; and is the collection center representative for the Center for International Blood & Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR). CIBMTR, an organization for research to improve outcomes of cellular therapies, comprises representatives from the continuum of care for cellular therapy; Ybarra represents apheresis centers.

“It is an honor to serve as chair of the NMDP Council Advisory Group. I am excited to continue to work closely with the members of the CAG, who represent the different types of NMDP network centers, to be the sounding board and voice of our network partners. We are committed to representing the network with a solution-driven, positive and mission-focused approach.”

“Yvonne has a focused passion for our mission, and I am grateful for the work she’s done as a tireless advocate for patients and our community,” said Becky Cap, chief operating officer of GenCure. “Having this effort recognized at a national level is an immense accomplishment. I know she will continue to make tremendous contributions to NMDP, GenCure and to San Antonio.”

Ybarra takes on the new role as the field of cellular therapy is poised to move in a new direction.

“Right now, cells are transferred intact into patients for the curative process of regrowing the immune system and reestablishing red blood cells,” Chell said. In the near future, he added, cells will be engineered to have unique properties, such as attacking radiation and learning to recognize and destroy viruses. “Looking at enhancing or eliminating properties of cells is a brave new world for cell therapy, and we’re very much on the front lines of this with our network,” Chell said.

In 2009, Ybarra received the Be The Match Donor Management Innovation Award for opening the GenCure peripheral blood stem cell (apheresis) center; in 2012, she received the Be The Match Partnership Award for the “Texas Pardners” Marrow Donor Program collaboration. She’s co-founder of the highly successful and nationally recognized collegiate marrow registry donor recruitment model, Cancer Advocacy Movement for Colleges and Outreach (CAMCO), which has added more than 40,000 new registry members, resulting in more than 60 donations for patients in need of a marrow or stem cell transplant.