By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
FREEPORT – Freeport is beginning to attract increased interest as a location for stem cell research and medical device manufacturing, the Grand Bahama Port Authority’s (GBPA) president believes.
Ian Rolle told the recent STEMSO Conference that the Port’s approval and licensing processes for these types of operations are much easier and straightforward.
He added that the presence of the Stem Cell Society, and the opening of the Okyanos Heart Institute in Freeport, have placed Grand Bahama centre stage for medical tourism.
“The GBPA has identified key areas for development and diversification of our investment base, and medical tourism is one of these areas,” he said
“We license all businesses in the city, but there are still areas that we need to consult with government regarding investment purposes.”
Matthew Feshbach, Okyanos Heart Institute’s co-founder and chief executive, said Grand Bahama was the ideal place for such a stem cell facility.
“Grand Bahama has certain tax advantages that are found nowhere else in the western world, and so what we have done is invested a significant amount of capital here,” he said.
Okyanos is expected to complete construction of its Freeport facility by early summer. The centre will provide treatment to coronary heart disease patients using adult stem cell therapy.
Mr Feshbach said he went to Bermuda, Aruba, Curacao and Mexico, but decided to locate in the Bahamas.
“What I found was that the Bahamas is a very serious place, and they really want to do things right,” he added.
“It is also a very friendly place, and it is amazingly convenient. It is close to the 200 million people in North America, it is an English-speaking country, they recognise the rule of law, and the legal system in based on English Common Law.”
Mr Feshbach said the centre in Freeport is designed to be exceed US stem cell standards, and ensure the highest standard of safety and care.
“I think it is a great place for people to bring other cell therapies to. From the day I arrived, I have encountered no obstacles or opposition,” he said.
“The only thing that slowed us down was when the country decided to legislate and regulate stem cell therapy, and that, to me, is a huge benefit for any provider.”
Mr Feshbach believes that “stem cell therapy is the next phase in the evolution of medicine”.
“When you look at adult cell therapy, you are really relaying on your natural biology to repair and regenerate damaged tissue and organs. This is a very big deal,” Mr Feshbach said.
He indicated that the US is behind Europe, Asia and other countries, including Japan, Singapore and Australia, in terms of approving stem cell therapy.
“Japan has just adopted legislation on stem cell, and Europe has put certain regulations in place to make it easier to do it there,” he added.