$100 million investment in stem cells on hold

Stem cell legislation kills off plans for controversial medical tourism clinic. To promote responsible stem cell research and treatment and medical tourism, stem cell regulation is now in place in The Bahamas.

A US investor planned to build a $100 million stem cell medical facility in The Bahamas. International fashion mogul Peter Nygard saw potential in offering legal treatment that is not available in the USA. But he is now mired in planning and political problems, new stem cell regulation, and even a murder plot. So all plans are off.

To promote responsible stem cell research and treatment and medical tourism, stem cell regulation is now in place in The Bahamas.

A national task force on stem cell therapy led to the regulation. The Stem Cell Secretariat within the Ministry of Health has reviewed six proposals for stem cell therapy and research. Five were provisionally approved and one was deferred. Full approval will only be considered after a clinic has been operating and functioning for at least a year. No clinic yet has full approval. Operating an illegal stem cell clinic now risks a fine of $250,000 or three to 10 years’ imprisonment, or both. The National Stem Cell Ethics Committee meets every six months in January or June to go through applications.

The Bahamas Government has taken a major step towards developing a stem cell industry with the signing of a consultancy agreement with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s, Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute.

The Bahamas was the first country in the English-speaking Caribbean region to have a regulatory framework for the conduct of stem cell research. The stem cell industry is at the cutting edge of modern medical practice: personalised health and precision medicine, it requires particular, specialised expertise to assess, monitor, evaluate and validate the scientific practices conducted in this emerging field of medicine.

Peter Nygard is Finnish but lives in Canada, where he is among the 100 richest Canadians. In 1984, Nygard built a second home on the Bahamas and over the years transformed the house into an unlicensed party resort, upsetting his residential neighbours and breaching a string of planning rules, that he allegedly got away with by large donations to politicians.

His latest plan was for a clinic there for anti-aging research involving experimental stem cell treatment. In an online video Nygard is shown injecting himself with a presumed stem cell formulation that he claims could produce immortality.

With political plots, rows between neighbours, political demonstrations, alleged links with government officials and politicians, lawsuits, private investigators, unofficial PR campaigns, religious opposition, gangsters with government contracts and a claimed murder plot – the story reads more like a film than a medical story.

In theory, Nygard could still seek to set up his stem cell clinic, but the new stem cell rules mean that politicians have been taken out of the decision making process. So Nygard would have to convince the National Stem Cell Ethics Committee and its Miami advisor, that all is above board and legally sound.