Contributions to Advancing Medical Tourism in the Federation and Advances in Human Health
Statement by D. E. Redmond, Jr, M.D., President
Lower Bourryeau Estate, St. Kitts— The St. Kitts Biomedical Research Foundation and I have provided advice for the development of medical tourism in the Federation and the development of new therapies that will eventually be available to people throughout the world. Neither the Foundation or I are participants, but we have provided advice to ensure that any experimental treatments are done according to the most rigorous international standards. Unfortunately, the initial treatments of a potential therapy for a number of diseases generated a media controversy based on false and inaccurate information. First, this treatment did not involve stem cells whatsoever. The fact that it has become a “stem cell controversy” is a controversy based on total misinformation. Second, because a foreign expert was brought in to advise on the experiment, a claim was made that an unlicensed doctor was practicing in the Federation. The Brazilian doctor in question did not treat any person; all treatments were administered by licensed local hospital staff. Finally, claims have been made about the dangers of the treatments and possible risks to people in St. Kitts. Although every therapy may carry some risks, this one has extremely low risks to the participants and no risks whatsoever to any other person, medical personnel, or the hospital.
The experimental treatment involves the intravenous injection of a small amount of plasma, a component of blood from which all cells have been removed. The plasma from human cord blood was obtained under the same scientific and ethical conditions as hundreds of thousands of similar samples in blood banks around the world. Cord blood from the placenta is ordinarily discarded after the birth takes place, but in the last 20 years has been increasingly collected and stored, with the mother’s permission, and made available for treatments of cancer, various genetic diseases, and recently for Alzheimer’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and the frailty of aging. The plasma samples were individually tested for every testable virus, including HIV, Dengue, chinkungunya, and Zika, and they were supplied by a highly regarded blood bank in Brazil. The safety risks are the same as receiving plasma for other medical conditions. This happens millions of times a year in the U.S. alone with almost no complications. The experiments, which support the potential value of this treatment, were considered to be the 2nd most exciting scientific developments of 2014.
As a research physician my personal interest and lifelong career has been to “translate” scientific discoveries into useful therapies and recently to advise investors and the St. Kitts-Nevis government on ways to do that without undue risk or the promotion of worthless therapies to desperate individuals. To assist with that process, in March of 2015, the Foundation assembled in St. Kitts a blue ribbon panel of scientific experts in experimental medicine, which included:
Dr. Conville S. Brown, MD, MBBS, FACC, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Bahamas Center For Heart Disease, Nassau, Bahamas; John Gearhart, Ph.D., Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA.
Aubrey de Grey, Ph.D., SENS Research Foundation, Editor-in-Chief, Rejuvenation Research, Mountain View, California; Matthew S. Lawrence, M.D., Ph.D., RxGen, Inc., CEO, CSO, Hamden, Ct; D. Eugene Redmond, Jr., M.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosurgery, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Ct., President, St. Kitts Biomedical Research Foundation, Bourryeau Estate, St. Kitts; Richard L. Sidman, M.D., Bullard Professor of Neuropathology (Neuroscience), emeritus, Harvard Medical School, Boston; Inderjit Singh, Ph.D., Distinguished University Professor, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston; John R. Sladek, Jr., M.S., Ph.D., Professor of Neurology, Pediatrics & Neuroscience, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center, Aurora, CO. ; Evan Y. Snyder, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.A.P, Professor, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute; Oswald Steward, Ph.D., Senior Associate Dean For Research, University of California at Irvine School of Medicine, Irvine; Yang (Ted) D. Teng, PhD, MD, Director, Laboratory of SCI & Stem Cell Biology Research, Neurosurgery and PM&R, Harvard Medical School, Boston.
Based on the advice of this group, the St. Kitts-Nevis Government negotiated plans for this initial plasma study for over a year including obtaining additional advice from other experts in Brazil and the U.S. The group recommended that any studies be carried out according to the guidelines of U.S. Clinical Trials and that data be collected to assess the safety and effectiveness of any therapies. This advice was followed for the study that is in progress. The group also recommended, and I fully support, legislation that would establish a “Medical ethics and scientific review board” consisting of local and similar to the above international experts to evaluate and recommend the approval or rejection of any new therapies that are proposed for the Federation by any party in the future.
It is my hope that St. Kitts Biomedical Research Foundation will be able to continue its role in developing new therapies for the future, including some experiments in monkeys that do involve stem cells of various types because of the enormous benefits that they may bring to the treatment of disease and the relief of suffering. There is no ethical controversy about many of these types of cells which exist throughout everyone’s body. Our research has always been carried out according to the strictest standards and regulations in the U.S. and is approved by the most rigorous laboratory accreditation organization in the world.
Finally, we are pleased that the human magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment which was brought in by the Foundation is now fully operational by the local company SKBMRI and actively serving patients from St. Kitts, Nevis, and several nearby islands.