Bahamas Prime Minister presents Bill for stem cell research and therapy

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Peter Nygard supports better healthcare for Bahamians

NASSAU, Bahamas — Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie presented a Bill for an Act to regulate stem cell research and therapy in The Bahamas, and also tabled for Members of Parliament, proposed regulations to implement that Act.

Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Perry Christie

In the House of Assembly, April 10, 2013, the Prime Minister said, “Stem cell science is evolving rapidly and carries the promise of bringing us therapies that will revolutionise medicine.”

He explained that stem cells are precursors to mature cells.

“Their ability to duplicate themselves and to become various kinds of cells gives them great potential for healing injuries and regenerating healthy tissues.

“The Bahamas has an opportunity to become a world leader among nations in this field.   This legislation is designed to help achieve that goal.”

Prime Minister Christie said The Bahamas is already well known for medical research.

“For example, we achieved international recognition in the area maternal to foetal transmission of HIV/AIDS research through our collaboration with Professor Stanley Read of the University of Toronto.

He added that supported by advances in science such as gene mapping, stem cell therapy appears to be the medicine of the future.

“In fact, some would say that it is the medicine of the day.  Indeed, it has already demonstrated well recognised benefits in certain areas, such as in reconstituting the immune system after chemotherapy for leukaemia.”

The Prime Minister noted that more recently there have been successes that stem cell therapy has had in rapidly restoring well-known athletes to the top of their game after serious injuries.

He said the country has the opportunity to host several important stem cell initiatives.

“Companies interested in establishing stem cell research and therapy centres in The Bahamas propose to build health care facilities and laboratories, create jobs, and offer treatments that will improve the lives of many of our citizens.

“These projects also promise to attract leading scientists to conduct research, establish institutions and Centres of Excellence, and relocate here.

He said, “If we succeed in attracting these scientists and their financial supporters, we will create many important opportunities for young Bahamian scientists and physicians.”

Prime Minister Christie said these leaders in science and medicine will train many young Bahamian scientists with the skills they need to succeed locally and on a world stage.  “Our young Bahamian scientists and doctors will be able to establish thriving professional lives right here in The Bahamas.  They will then be able to contribute back to our community in the years to come, as well as to the international community.”

He explained that these projects and future stem cell initiatives hold the key to geometric growth of the life science industry in the country.

The Prime Minister said they will generate new jobs at many levels, and will fuel accelerated growth of the economy.

He added that the growth would not be limited to the medical and scientific industries.  It will have spill over effects on all areas in the economy, including the tourism industry.

Prime Minister Christie said, “It will provide one more reason for the world to regard The Bahamas as ideal location, not only to visit, but also to live and in which to invest.”

Strict regulations for Stem Cell Research

International Fashion Designer Peter Nygard supports Stem Cell research.

NASSAU, The Bahamas — The Act that will regulate stem cell research and therapy in The Bahamas as well as the proposed regulations to implement that Act would create a strict oversight regime to ensure that no prohibited procedures occur in The Bahamas, Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie said.

Speaking in the House of Assembly where he was presenting a Bill for the Act to regulate stem research and therapy on April 10, the Prime Minister explained that the regulations would also ensure that stem cell research and therapy in the country complies with the highest scientific and ethical standards.

“A significant component of that regime is that every facility or laboratory used for stem cell research or therapy must obtain a license under the Hospital and Health Care Facility Act.

“This provision will subject all those facilities and laboratories to inspections by individuals with appropriate qualifications, which the Minister of Health has authority to specify by regulations.

Prime Minister Christie said the provision will also subject those facilities and laboratories to fees set by the Minister of Health, which will be used to cover the costs necessary to hire or train qualified inspectors.

He noted that another important component of the oversight regime involves Committee review.

“Every person who conducts research on or provides treatment using stem cells must secure review by a Scientific Review Committee and an Ethics Committee.

“Each Scientific Review Committee must ensure that a sound scientific basis exists for permitting the proposed research or therapy to proceed.”

The Prime Minister said it will also ensure that the individuals proposing to conduct stem cell research or therapy have appropriate training and experience.

“In short, this review will weed out unethical (“mad”) scientists.  The Ethics Committees will ensure that all stem cell research and therapy meet the highest ethical standards and are consistent with Bahamian values.”

He explained that to ensure that the Scientific Review and Ethics Committees provide effective oversight, a National Committee will be created to review and approve the credentials of the members of all Scientific Review and Ethics Committees in the country, both upon their creation and annually.

“The regulations set forth certain minimal criteria for the membership credentials of those committees.

Prime Minister Christie said the National Committee will also issue guidelines on determining which types of research and therapy are permissible, restricted, or prohibited.

“The National Committee itself will also review particularly sensitive categories of proposed research or therapy, such as those involving more than minimal manipulation of the stem cells, previously derived stem cells, or Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer.

“As the recipient of reports from all the committees, the National Committee will have certain other duties.

He said those duties include educating the public about the stem cell law and regulations and about stem cells generally.

They also include ensuring that knowledge gained during the course of stem cell research and therapy conducted in The Bahamas is used to the maximum benefit of Bahamians, and is made available to Bahamian physicians and health care practitioners.

The Prime Minister said the National Committee will be appointed by the Minister of Health, and must include persons with credentials in science, medicine, commerce, religion, education, ethics, and law.

He added that it must also have at least one member who is recognised internationally as a leader in stem cell science.

PM: Government fully aware of stem cell concerns

NASSAU, The Bahamas — Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry C. Christie said the Government is fully aware of the concerns it must address before allowing stem cell research and therapy to proceed.

The Prime Minister presented a Bill for an Act to regulate stem cell research and therapy in The Bahamas and also tabled for Members of Parliament proposed regulations to implement that Act, in the House of Assembly, April 10, 2013.

He said, “We commissioned a task force to study this issue that has already been the subject of communication.

“The Task Force issued a thorough and thoughtful report summarising the current state of stem cell science and of ethical debate regarding related controversial issues.

Prime Minister Christie said the Government also recently took counsel from the Christian Coalition along with on-going consultation within the medical and science communities.

Based on all input it received, he said the Government’s position is that before allowing stem cell research or therapy in the country, it must first establish a legal framework for regulating this new science and medical practice.

“Consequently, we have halted the pending stem cell proposals until we do so.

“We recognise that it is critical to have in place a system to approve and monitor stem cell research and therapy to protect our reputation, guard against rogue scientists and scandals, ensure the safety of patients in The Bahamas, and assure our people that all stem cell research and therapy will be conducted in accordance with our own ethical values following international best practices.”

Accordingly, Prime Minister Christie said the Government is proposing this Act and accompanying regulations.  The legal framework will create a regulatory regime covering all aspects of stem cell research, namely – clinical research, in other words, testing stem cells in people; on-clinical research, which includes bench research in laboratories as well as non-human animal research; and therapeutic uses in people.

The Prime Minister explained that the framework will prohibit and deter procedures that are unethical or scientifically unfounded, such as human reproductive cloning.

“It will establish strict regulatory standards and procedures for non-clinical and clinical research and for therapy, as well as for ancillary functions, such as transporting and storing stem cells.

He said, “It will establish licensing and oversight mechanisms to ensure that everyone in the country who engages in stem cell research or therapy meets those standards.

“And it will establish enforcement mechanisms and legal penalties through which the Minister of Health and the Government will be able to ensure that these legal standards are upheld,” Prime Minister Christie added.