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Our history

For 50 years Anthony Nolan has been saving lives through stem cells. It all started with one little boy. Today, Shirley Nolan’s incredible vision means we can help four people in need of a transplant every day. And in the future, we want to help thousands more with new treatments and therapies. We have never been more determined to ensure every patient that needs us can survive and thrive.


Anthony Nolan is born with a rare blood disorder called Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome. The only cure is a bone marrow transplant. None of his family were a match, so the search for an unrelated matching donor begins.

Anthony Nolan with a balloon


The Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Register is established: the first of its kind. Today, it’s helped 22,000 people receive a lifesaving transplant. Before this, finding an unrelated stem cell donor was virtually impossible.

Sadly, no match for Anthony could be found. He died aged seven, in 1979.

Without you, there is no cure

You can make sure that Anthony’s lifesaving legacy lives on.


Anthony Nolan becomes a founding member of Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide. Now, patients and lifesaving donors can be connected all around the world.

Hospital donation bag


Building of the Anthony Nolan Research Institute begins. Today, it's driving ground-breaking research to reduce post-transplant complications and improve quality of life after transplant.

Dr. Neema Mayor, Head of Immunogenetics Research at Anthony Nolan


The Anthony Nolan register helps its 1,000th patient, matching them with an anonymous donor for the second chance of life that Shirley believed everyone deserved.

Patient Jo Kelly - during treatment


Peripheral blood stem cell collection (PBSC) starts to be used regularly for lifesaving treatment - a quicker, easier, and less painful method than collecting bone marrow. To mark this step forward, in 2001 The Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust changes it’s name to The Anthony Nolan Trust.

Donor Georgi - PBSC


Anthony Nolan sets up the UK’s first dedicated cord blood bank enabling 62,000 new mothers to follow in Shirley’s lifesaving footsteps, by donating their umbilical cords for transplant and research.



Joining the stem cell register becomes even easier. Potential donors can now give saliva samples instead of blood. Still moving forward, The Anthony Nolan Trust becomes Anthony Nolan.

Tobi, stem cell donor showing how to register by swabbing his cheek


The funded Clinical Nurse Specialist programme begins. Today Anthony Nolan has funded 12 CNSs across the UK.

Patient (Xing Zhang) in Hospital ward with CNS Sarah Ware


Working in partnership with Leukaemia UK and NHS Blood and Transplant, IMPACT is launched – aiming to improve stem cell transplants through clinical trials.

IMPACT launch


The 800,000 person joins the stem cell register, taking Shirley’s vision to new heights.

Photo of Ezra donating his stem cells. He's also shared his story.


Today we have over 900,000 on the stem cell register as Anthony Nolan celebrates its 50th anniversary. We have changed the way we look and sound as we pursue our ambition of “Saving lives through stem cells.”

Updesh, who donated his stem cells in 2019.

Your support saves lives right now.

Please help us make sure we can be there for everyone affected by blood cancer and blood disorders today.

Make a donation

A gift of £5 a month helps to ensure our volunteer couriers can deliver lifesaving stem cells to a patient in waiting.

A gift of £10 a month could sign up three lifesaving stem cell donors every year.

A gift of £15 a month could help pay for our umbilical cord collection programme – making little lifesavers of babies only minutes old!

£10 goes a long way to helping our scientists conduct ground-breaking research that will save lives over the next 50 years.

£30 could pay for an hour of a specialist post-transplant nurse’s time – someone who offers invaluable support to our patients and their families, particularly during this difficult time.

£40 could add a donor to the stem cell register – that donor could go on to save the life of a child like Anthony.