WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 25, 2004) – Four-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon was on Capitol Hill today to urge Senate passage of a bill to reauthorize a five-year funding cycle for the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), which maintains the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry and facilitates transplants from unrelated donors for patients with leukemia and other diseases. Gordon, a longtime advocate for NMDP and board member of its partner, The Marrow Foundation, visited key lawmakers to urge passage of the legislation, which was passed unanimously in the House last year but has not been voted on in the Senate. Current authorization for the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry expired in September 2003. “The NMDP offers hope to the more than 30,000 people diagnosed each year with fatal blood diseases like leukemia,” said Gordon. “It’s critical for the Senate to continue its longstanding support of NMDP, which is on track to facilitate its 20,000th transplant later this year.” Gordon’s visit also highlighted NMDP’s special Capitol Hill donor drive held in the Hart Senate Office building, which offered the opportunity for Members of Congress and their staff to sign up and become part of the national Registry. “The National Bone Marrow Donor Act represents a tremendous success story due in large part to the wisdom of Congress and the altruism of the American people, who have supported us since we began operations in 1986. As a result, the NMDP is the largest, most successful Registry in the world -- which has given hope to nearly 20,000 patients,” said NMDP Chief Executive Officer Dr. Jeffrey Chell. “We need the Senate to join the House in support of reauthorization to maintain the great progress we’ve achieved.” Chell praised the Members and staff who joined the national Registry and expressed special thanks to the co-sponsors of legislation to reauthorize the NMDP: Senators John Ensign (R-NV) and Jack Reed (D-RI) and Representatives C.W. Bill Young (R-FL), Mike Bilirakis (R-FL) and Ed Towns (D-NY). “The NMDP is a critically important program that has saved countless lives and offered hope to thousands,” said Republican Senator Ensign, the lead sponsor of the Senate legislation. “I am proud to co-sponsor this important legislation and urge my colleagues to join me.” Senator Reed, the Democratic sponsor of the Senate legislation, stated, "The Senate must quickly approve the reauthorization of this important program. Congress cannot fail the millions of Americans who are waiting today to receive the help that the NMDP Registry and its services provides." “Each month, the NMDP facilitates transplants for more than 180 patients,” said NMDP House champion Representative Young. “These people are among the thousands of individuals around the country whose lives depend on the ability of this program to continue its work. I am confident that my colleagues in the Senate will move swiftly to reauthorize this life-saving program.” Only about 30 percent of patients with diseases like leukemia can find a matched donor in their family. The rest need to find matching unrelated donors. The NMDP, with a Registry of more than 5 million volunteer donors and over 30,000 cord blood units, provides a broad set of services and resources to help patients find those matches and to make it possible to bring donors and patients together through a potentially life-saving transplant. The NMDP sponsors research, performs advocacy services for patients and coordinates a national network of transplant centers, collection centers, donor centers, cord blood banks and other facilities. The National Marrow Donor Program The National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) is a nonprofit organization that is committed to its mission to extend and improve life through innovative cell therapies. The NMDP has facilitated more than 18,000 transplants throughout the world for patients with life-threatening diseases such as leukemia and aplastic anemia, as well as certain immune system and genetic disorders. The NMDP offers searching patients who do not have suitable family donors a single point of access for all three types of blood cells used in transplantation: marrow, peripheral blood and umbilical cord blood. Through its extensive U.S. and international Network, the NMDP maintains the world’s largest and most diverse Registry of 5 million potential volunteer donors, including more than 30,000 cord blood units. Matching donors to patients is only part of the NMDP’s life-saving mission. The organization also provides support for patients and physicians and conducts research studies aimed at increasing opportunities for and improving the outcomes of cellular transplant therapies. For more information about the NMDP, call 1-800-MARROW-2 or visit online at www.marrow.org.