Stem cell transplant charity chief celebrates 15 years at the helm

January 18, 2024

The chief executive of stem cell transplant charity Anthony Nolan is celebrating 15 years at the head of the organisation as it marks its 50th anniversary.  

Henny Braund, MBE, joined the charity in 2009 and set out a bold ambition to transform the stem cell register’s ability to meet the needs of patients with blood cancer or blood disorders.  

During her time at the helm, Anthony Nolan has increased the number of stem cell transplants it has helped to deliver to patients in the UK and across the world. The charity is now helping four lives a day, giving more people a second chance of life.  

Henny has prioritised the need for the UK stem cell register to meet the needs of all patients and has established partnerships to enrich and diversify the pool of available donors.  

And under her leadership, Anthony Nolan’s annual income has grown from £19 million to £64 million.  

Henny Braund, MBE, chief executive of Anthony Nolan, said: “50 years ago Shirley Nolan was so determined to save her son’s life that she set up the world’s first stem cell register. This created a lifeline for patients in need of a transplant to find a matching donor. 

“I’m incredibly proud to have taken on Shirley’s legacy and of the amazing work the Anthony Nolan community does every day, inspired by her. But we know there is so much more to do. Despite all our progress, too few patients survive and too many suffer complications.  

“I’m hugely optimistic for everything the future holds and excited about what we can achieve together to ensure even more transplant patients survive and thrive. Research into new cell therapies and improved treatments offers real hope that more people, regardless of background, ethnicity, or circumstance, will have a second chance of life, and a better chance to live well.”  

In 2011 Henny played an instrumental role in the creation of a single UK donor register by forging a historic partnership with NHS Blood and Transplant.  

This made it possible for a single search of the aligned Anthony Nolan and NHS Stem Cell Registry to cover every stem cell donor and cord blood unit available for transplant in the UK, increasing the speed with which donors and patients are matched.  

Henny has ensured every aspect of the charity’s work is informed and led by science and research. Anthony Nolan became the world’s first register to lower the minimum registration age for unrelated donors to 16 years old in 2012, after research showed that transplants from younger donors improved outcomes for patients.  

Since then, the charity has seen the average age at donation fall from 32 years (2012) to 27 years (2022). 92.3% of donations from Anthony Nolan donors in 2022 were from those aged 35 years or younger. 

Henny’s drive to innovate and collaborate led to Anthony Nolan supporting and creating the IMPACT partnership, a UK-wide platform for the delivery of vital clinical trials in the field of stem cell transplantation.   

She was also an instrumental member of the UK’s Stem Cell Strategic Forum, which in 2010 made far-reaching strategic recommendations to improve the availability and quality of stem cell transplants in the UK. 

Henny’s determination to put patients at the heart of Anthony Nolan’s work led to the establishment of a patient services team to ensure they have the support they need.  This work has also included funding clinical nurse specialists in transplant centres and investing in research to explore gaps in provision and to develop more effective post-transplant care. 

Henny passionately led the charity’s successful campaign for NHS England to routinely fund second stem cell transplants for patients who relapse more than one year after their first transplant.  

And the charity influenced the government to include information about stem cell donation in new guidelines for state secondary schools, ensuring pupils in England can learn about stem cell donation. 

Internationally, Henny has championed and accelerated the work of the World Marrow Donor Association, the umbrella body for registries worldwide. She has been a member of its board and chaired the search, match connect committee which developed a modern and universally accessible database of stem cell donors.  

Previously, resources director at Shelter, Henny has also been a trustee at The Small Charities Coalition, Shelter Trading, Thames Reach, and AIDS and Housing. She is currently a trustee at The Mix and the Association of Medical Research Charities.  

Nicola Horlick, chair of the board of trustees of Anthony Nolan, said: “Henny has been an inspirational and ambitious leader for the past 15 years. Thanks to her, so much has been achieved to help people with blood cancers and blood disorders and I look forward to seeing where her incredible vision takes the charity next.”