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Grand Bahama Minister opens Stem Cell Conference
By Simon Lewis, BIS
Feb 21, 2014 - 12:48:35 PM

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DR. MICHAEL DARVILLE, Minister for Grand Bahama officially opens STEMSO 2014 Conference at the Grand Lucayan Resort, February 20, 2014. BIS Photo

Freeport, Bahamas – Minister for Grand Bahama, Dr. Michael Darville, on Thursday, February 20 officially welcomed stem cell experts from around the globe to Grand Bahama Island.

Dr. Darville was bringing remarks at the opening of STEMSO 2014 Conference, which got underway at Grand Lucayan Resort.

STEMSO, The International Stem Cell Society, was formulated to facilitate the common economic interests of its regenerative medicine industry member organisations.

As a trade organisation, STEMSO is the mechanism by which positive change may be implemented, work toward cogent regulatory pathway and public awareness and education concerning adult stem cells may be accomplished.

The organisation endeavors to convey information concerning timely events within the stem cell industry, business collaborations, and legislative changes through access to conferences, publications, seminars and digital media.

Dr. Darville told Thursday’s gathering that as Minister for Grand Bahama and member of the local medical fraternity, that is was a privilege for him, as a strong advocate for stem cell research and therapies in The Bahamas, to bring welcome remarks at the historic conference.

He pointed out that upon coming to office 18 months ago, the newly elected government embraced the idea of establishing the country as a highly respected, world class jurisdiction for medical tourism and a leader in stem cell research and therapies.

“After completing comprehensive parliamentary assessment of the benefits that adult stem cell research and therapy would have on our citizens and country, the government established a national task force on stem cell therapy to explore the positive and potential negative effects of the application of this science to human life.

“Our findings confirmed that with proper monitoring, The Bahamas, through stem cell research and therapies, would not only find itself on the cutting edge of good science, but this science would open doors to therapies that could treat and possibly cure many of the chronic debilitating diseases that currently affect our population,” he stated.

Continuing, the Minister for Grand Bahama noted that the implementation of adult stem cell research in The Bahamas has been described as the opening of the flood gates to a cutting-edge technique with serious medical tourism potential.

“As a result, the government concluded that it was essential to pursue and regulate this industry in order to reap its many benefits to our country and its people,” he said.

Further, Dr. Darville said they are pleased with the Stem Cell Research and Therapy Bill 2013, which facilitated the establishment of three important committees, The Scientific Review Committee, The Ethics Committee and The Compliance Committee which will ensure that all stem cell research and therapy conducted in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas meet best practices and international standards and that strict policies are put in place to ensure that all medical practitioners and research scientists are held accountable to the highest ethical standards by local and international experts from around the world, thus protecting the industry and the integrity and reputation of the country.

The minister said he was also excited about the possibilities of foreign direct investment for the island of Grand Bahama, but specifically as it relates to stem cell research and treatment.

“I truly believe that we can attract scientists and medical practitioners to live and establish research institutions, medical centres and health care facilities on Grand Bahama, which will fuel the growth of our economy through medical tourism.

“It also allows Bahamian physicians, nurse and other medical professionals to have the opportunity for training and research and in the final analysis, create sustainable well paying jobs,” he said.

Dr. Darville also stressed that Grand Bahama Island is just 60 miles off the coast of Florida and has a state of the art infrastructure and duty free environment with many tax benefits for investors, which makes it an ideal destination to live, work and play.

He said the island has all the ingredients for tourist to have access to world renowned regenerative medicine, treat chronic degenerative diseases and be rejuvenated while working towards achieving optimal health.

The Minister for Grand Bahama also informed that his ministry in conjunction with the ministry of health has been assessing the primary and tertiary healthcare needs for Grand Bahama and that the government is fully committed to the construction of a new state of the art hospital in the city of Freeport.

He said that through a public/private partnership model, they intend to improve the present medical infrastructure and current medical services in order to efficiently cater to the medical needs of locals and medical tourists alike. He anticipates that this new facility will be completed by early 2017.

Dr. Darville again assured participants that The Bahamas is committed to stem cell research and therapy. Also, that his ministry has responsibility for attracting new investments and to work closely with the private sector to diversify the 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 throughout our country,” he stated.

Stem Cell Conference Underway in Grand Bahama

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