BY DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
FREEPORT - A Cabinet Minister yesterday reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to developing a stem cell research industry in the Bahamas, saying it could inject hundreds of millions of dollars annually into the Bahamian economy.
Speaking at the 2014 STEMSO Conference in Freeport, Dr Michael Darville said the Government was moving to establish the Bahamas as a leader in stem cell research and therapies.
He added that a comprehensive parliamentary assessment has been completed of the benefits that adult stem cell research and therapy would have in the Bahamas.
A National Task Force, the minister for Grand Bahama said, has explored both the positive and potentially negative effects of stem cell therapy, and has advised the Government to move aggressively toward the establishment of an industry in the Bahamas.
Grand Bahama’s first stem cell facility will be ready to open this summer in Freeport. The Okyanos Heart Institute will be providing treatment to patients with coronary heart disease through adult stem cell therapy.
The International Stem Cell Society (STEMSO) is an international, non-profit trade association that promotes the interests of the global, adult stem cell healthcare industry while linking patients and stakeholders with member medical organisations.
This is the first time that the conference is being held in the Bahamas. This year’s’ theme is: ‘Bridging the Gap: Research to the Point of Care’.
While addressing medical professionals, Dr Darville said the Stem Cell Research and Therapy Bill 2013, which facilitated the establishment of three important committees, will regulate the sector.
He said the Scientific Review committee, the Ethics Committee, and the Compliance Committee will ensure that all stem cell research and therapy conducted in the Bahamas meet best practices and international standards.
The committees will also ensure strict policies are put in place so all medical practitioners and research scientists are held accountable to the highest ethical standards.
Dr Darville said: “As Minister for Grand Bahama it is my responsibility to attract investment to our island and to work closely with the private sector to diversify our local economy.
“Medical tourism remains a huge market throughout the region, and generates billions of dollars annually worldwide. For that reason, the Government of the Bahamas is heeding the advice of the chairman of the Stem Cell Task Force, who admonished us to aggressively pursue the stem cell industry.”
Dr Darville said the implementation of adult stem cell research in the Bahamas has been described as the “opening of the floodgates to a cutting edge technique with serious medical tourism potential”.