From Petri to Peter: Bahamas’ billionaire Peter Nygård promotes advocacy for stem cell research
Like many Australians, we had never heard of Peter Nygård until a little over a month ago. A fastidious Google search reveals him as the philanthropic Finland-borne fashion executive behind Nygård International, a multi-billion dollar women’s clothing empire. With limited collective expertise in women’s fashion, we were curious as to why the UK’s BBC news, Canada’s CBC and Australia’s own NineMSN news channels are showing unparalleled excitement about his new ventures into stem cell research.
So why is Nygård causing such a stir?
According to interviews with the billionaire philanthropist, 71-year-old Peter Nygård has always been fond of an active lifestyle. Although the envy of many, a high paced lifestyle saturated with international traveling, corporate business, sporting activities and the entertaining of beautiful women is likely to accelerate numerous factors driving the ageing process.
However, according to Mr. Nygård, the ageing process isn’t necessarily something we have to live with. Firmly holding a widespread portfolio of business interests, he may just be the man to prove it.
In fact, his latest venture aims to complement his pursuit of reversing the ageing process. Not only is he an advocate and long-term recipient of stem cell treatments, he is now taking purposeful steps to spearhead the worldwide development of Stem Cell research in the fight against ‘getting older’. Interestingly, these developments are all taking shape in immaculately palatial, resort-style establishments in the Bahamas.
Why take the venture to the Bahamas?
Apart from the appeal of resort-style living, this tropical tax-haven fits neatly into Mr. Nygård’s four step strategy:
Step 1: Obtaining the right technology
Nygård is quite demonstrative of his passion for embryonic stem cell research. University of Oregon Scientist, Dr. Shoukhrat Mitalipov explains, “It’s been 15 years since we invented the embryonic stem cell, and no one has been able to figure out how to use it.” The procedure inserts adult human DNA into an unfertilised human egg, so that the growing stem cells can be used to treat serious disease and ageing.
“The way in which these stem cell lines were derived is from embryos that were created in the process of In Vitro Fertlisation (IVF), and, in fact, there are hundreds of thousands of these embryos that are simply being discarded,” said Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the US National Institute of health. In light of this explanation and many like it, it was in 2009 that Nygård established ‘Nygård Biotec’ with a view to finding the missing link in embryonic stem cell technologies.
Step 2: Finding the perfect setting
Since its conception (no pun intended), rigorous international debate has surrounded embryonic stem cell research. Religious, moral and ethical movements have overwhelmed the policy-makers within national governments with protests, rallies and judicial hearings that the practice be discontinued. The voracious discussion, continuing even today, is founded on the belief that all fertilised eggs, although immature, undeveloped and un-born, deserve to be treated as a young human being with identical rights. The discussion is not dissimilar to the abortion debate, each side armed with equally justifiable arguments akin to the necessity for the battles exhibited in Mel Gibson’s ‘Braveheart’.
After lengthy international travels, Mr. Nygård settled in the Bahamas for good reason. Recognised by its popularity among A-class celebrities and the rich and famous, the Bahamas is a celebrated holiday destination with beautiful weather, a welcoming economy, ever-friendly culture and certain tax-related perks.
Peter Nygård’s Official Youtube Movie demonstrates the extent of support he receives from the Bahaman Church regarding his contributions to regenerative medicine through stem cell biotech research. At one point in the film, an enthusiastic priest boldly proclaims, “God has already given us our own medicine from within our bodies!”
Step 3: Educating the law-makers
Nygård needed the Bahamian government to willingly adopt supportive legislation for his stem cell studies; a critical step in the progression of Nygård’s extensive plans for research. “He showed tremendous courage and political savviness to guide this through the legislature,” said Nygård, referring to Bahama’s current Prime Minister, Perry Christie.
PM Christie speaks on the film, “Two years ago Peter Nygård called me to say that if your country is prepared to pass legislation, I will find a way to bring scientists who I have retained. I am prepared to have them come into the Bahamas.”
Sure enough, the stem cell bill was passed in January of 2014, the first time the Bahamas’ ‘Medical Act’ had been revised in over 12 years. All that remained was the establishment of the necessary infrastructure and resources to complete the building of technologically advanced medical and laboratory facilities to realise the Nygård dream.
Step 4: Planing and construction of the scientific facilities
The construction of a multi-million dollar facility which develops both genomic sequencing and embryonic stem-cell technology would be the first of its kind anywhere in the world. While importing the most advanced stem cell technologies available, Nygård also aims to expand research into commercial genome sequencing (GS). GS is the mapping of an organism’s entire DNA sequence, potentially used to predict one’s risk of developing a range of genetically inherited pathologies. Although the debate continues to rage on regarding the potential pros and cons about procuring this information at a commercial level, its success would see medical doctors and genetic specialists armed with new-found knowledge about their patients and a revolutionary capacity to provide preventative healthcare to patients at risk. While it has already taken more than five years of planning for Nygård Biotec to reach the current stage of construction in the Bahamas, Nygård has also announced future plans to expand with clinics in India, Macau and Thailand.
Whatever lies ahead for Nygård and Nygård Biotech, medical research industries internationally are sure to pay close attention to the Bahamas in coming years.
Please note: While SkyGen is certainly most interested in discussing breakthrough research in all forms of regenerative medicine, this is not at all to be misconstrued a reflection of the technologies offered through SkyGen’s associated hospitals and clinics. No embryonic stem cells or non-autologous tissues are processed at any facility alongside which SkyGen operates. All stem cells used in SkyGen facilitated regenerative medicine procedures are ‘autologously’ sourced i.e. from each patient, for each patient. For more information, visit here
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