Insight: Let’S Open The Door And Grasp This Amazing Opportunity


Dr. Desiree Cox, MD, PhD


You can’t fit a square peg in a round hole, the old saying goes. The same is true for new ideas.

The Dutch have a word that captures this: “draagvlak” (pronounced “draag-vaak”). Basically, in the context of new ideas, it means that every idea has a capacity and for a new idea or vision to take hold you have to create a carrying capacity for that idea in people’s consciousness and in the culture of their communities. Without sufficient “draagvlak”, your idea or vision will not thrive.

Imagine placing your great big breeze block of an idea on top of a pin-hole size crack in the pavement – a community’s capacity to incorporate that idea into their consciousness, perception and their way of thinking. Your blockbuster idea is never going to become part of the pavement unless you find a way to expand that crack.

When the Government of The Bahamas implemented the 2013 Stem Cell Act and 2014 Stem Cell Regulation, it was after the establishment of a National Stem Cell Taskforce in 2012, numerous town hall meetings, discussions and taking soundings from the population before the laws were tabled in the Houses of Parliament and ultimately enacted.

The purpose of these laws is to foster innovation in research in stem cell and regenerative medicine, widely recognised as the future medical paradigm right here in these Bahama islands which Columbus asserted was the “New World”. This new medical paradigm focuses on the science of our body’s own extraordinary capacity to heal and regenerate its tissues and organs, and the “translational medicine” that brings these medical and scientific advances to patients to significantly improve, and in some cases, transform their healthcare outcomes.

Let’s say you don’t know or understand much about stem cell therapy or research. Let’s go further and say you’re not interested, that you don’t care about any of this. Here’s what’s worth caring about: The laws of The Bahamas in this area create a legal framework aimed at ensuring that stem cell and regenerative medicine is conducted safely and ethically; and this not only sets The Bahamas apart in the region, it also opens the door for extraordinary economic opportunities in the healthcare space not just for specialists - doctors, nurses, scientists - but also allied healthcare professionals and computer scientists/ developers, technologists, even designers and artists.

How so? By creating a regulated environment for the safe and ethical development and evaluation of new medicines and therapies in the real world – translational medicine – data from promising research carried out in The Bahamas may be recognised by the Food and Drug Agency (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA). This would mean that some of the billions of dollars that currently flow into the US economy as a result of medical research would find a home in The Bahamian economy instead.

Here’s where the unpronounceable Dutch word “draagkvlak” comes in.

Although there have been a few international early adopters who have established safe and high-quality stem cell and regenerative medicine research and therapy projects in The Bahamas, The Bahamas is not known as an innovation gateway for healthcare, medical research, and/or translational medicine – not yet at least. I believe that Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and influencers in this country also do not fully appreciate the scientific and economic potential of our laws in this area. Last week, I mentioned that 85 percent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have not yet been invented, that the lion-share of those new jobs will be in healthcare and health related fields; and, that people-in-the-know will be able to create their own jobs while many others will be left behind.

Consider this a tip for people who want to make sure they are counted among those in-the-know. This problem of KOLs and influencers not seeing the opportunity – or in some cases deliberately pretending not to – is your opportunity. If you are looking to make a big move in this area that is set to explode with new opportunities you will need to understand the landscape of cellular therapy, regenerative medicine, precision-medicine and the breakthrough new business models for paying for new therapeutic innovations in these and other areas that will also have implications for The Bahamas, due to laws in the US and Brexit in the UK.

Day two of The HEALinc Future Health Summit on Monday, October 8, will include the following topics and speakers: Benefits and Challenges of Translational Research in Regenerative Medicine for the Region, Dr Bob Hariri (MD, PhD, Founder and CEO of Celularity); Cellular Therapies, Digital Health and Precision Medicine: Implications for Medical Tourism, Renee Stephano, JD (Medical Tourism Association); Accelerated Development and Implementation of Regenerative Medicine Technologies Across Multiple Conditions and Disease States, Dr Marc Penn, MD, PhD, FACC (CEO Black Beret Life Sciences (BBLS) and Head of Research and Strategy, Okyanos Center for Regenerative Medicine, Freeport, Grand Bahama); Prospects for Regenerative Medicine to Treat Aging and Aging-Related Medical Conditions, Professor Joshua Hare (Louis Lemberg Professor of Medicine, Molecular and Pharmacology, and Biomedical Engineering, University of Miami and Chief Science Officer for Longeveron); Tending the Soil to Sprout the Seed: Heterochronic Optimized Plasma Exchange (HOPE) Induces a Regenerative Phenotype in Native Aged Stem Cells, Dr David Haase (CMO, MaxWell Biosciences); Stemistry: Towards the Discovery of First-in-Class Drugs to Benefit Patients with Degenerative Diseases, Dr Mike Stein, MD, PhD (CEO of OxStem); Data and the Future of Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease Management, Dr Kala Fleming (IBM - Corporate Strategy and Innovation), Speaking with Investors in the Language They Understand, Dr Pamela Rossos (Miller Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, Santa Clara University).

Don’t miss out. Registration for special one-day passes for the summit opening ceremony (day one), day two and day three are available online at www.healincfuturehealthsummit.com. For more information, contact the summit organising team: USA/Canada (877) 426-5361; Bahamas (855) 826-1165; Worldwide (716) 442-3798.

Dr Desiree Cox MD, PhD (www.desireecox.com) is the founder and CEO of the 2018 Inaugural HEALinc Future Health Innovation Summit (www.healincfuturehealthsummit.com). She is the first Bahamian Rhodes Scholar and first female British Caribbean Rhodes Scholar, a medical doctor, creative artist and published author. She has earned degrees from McGill, Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Her career achievements include honours by Oxford University and the British Medical Journal. In 2013, a 70-cent stamp bearing her photograph was issued by The Bahamas Government.


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