Branson goes from cellphones to stem cells

by Ian Johnson, CBC News Online

Richard Branson's knack for marketing and his eye for hot business opportunities have helped him bank huge piles of cash from music, airline and mobile phone ventures. Now he wants to bank something new, making a bid to move from cellphone mogul to stem cell czar, according to a Guardian Co./Press Association report.

Branson's latest business, launched today in the U.K., is a biotech firm that will store stem cells harvested from the umbilical cords of newborns for a fee, the report said — although there are no mentions on Virgin's main site and the venture itself doesn't appear to have its own website. Stem cells taken from umbilical cords after birth are a source of material for new types of medical treatments. The new bank will reportedly store some of a client's donated cells strictly for their personal use, and a portion will be made freely available to members of the public who need them.

Considering the client base, though, the marketing genius may want to have another go at the reported name of the venture: Virgin Health Bank.