DKMS is an international nonprofit organisation dedicated to the fight against blood cancer and blood disorders.
In 2020, a German based NGO named DKMS and the South African Sunflower Fund joined forces in a partnership that had the potential to change the history of stem cell transplants in South Africa and globally. The following year in March (2021), an amalgamation of the entities was announced, birthing DKMS Africa – and combining two histories of similar organisations to give hope to patients.
With a collective 51-year history of saving lives, in seven countries on 5 continents, we DKMS Africa pride ourselves on being the premier organisation in Africa to recruit donors. Our mission is to create awareness about blood stem cell donation and to maintain a global registry of donors who are representative of the world’s diversity and ethnic background. Our goal is to recruit an ethnically diverse registry of donors committed to helping anyone in need of a life-saving transplant.
The journeys of The Sunflower Fund and DKMS began similarly: in different corners of the world, the fate of patients suffering from leukaemia started a movement, a community of people committed to one cause: fighting blood cancer and blood disorders.
The Sunflower Fund was inspired by the heroic struggle against leukaemia of two brave young men, Darren Serebro (1997) and Chris Corlett (2000).
DKMS was founded more than 30 years ago in Germany after Mechtild Harf’s family was told the only treatment for her leukaemia was a bone marrow transplant. She had no matching family members.
At the time, there were only 3,000 potential stem cell donors on the German registry to provide a transplant. Confronted by the knowledge that his wife faced difficult odds in finding a matching donor, her husband Peter decided to apply his prolific business skills to the question of how to give his wife and patients like her the best chance at survival. The answer seemed clear: more unrelated donors meant better chances for all patients in need.
Peter founded DKMS with his wife’s transplant physician, Gerhard Ehninger, on the 28th of May 1991 and in our first year of operations we managed to expand the registry from 3,000 donors to 68,000. Despite the Harf family’s best efforts, Mechtild ultimately did not survive. However, before she passed away she made Peter promise her that he would not stop fighting until every patient had a matching donor and a potential second chance at life. Since then Peter and his daughter Katharina Harf, the Vice Chairwoman of the DKMS Foundation Board, have kept that promise. Motivated by the fate of their wife and mother, by 1995 Katharina and Peter had helped build DKMS into the world’s largest stem cell donor register and ever since we have worked tirelessly to fulfil our mission – to provide as many blood cancer patients as possible with a second chance at life.