October 23 2020
By James Whittaker
Cayman Compass


The chair of Cayman’s medical regulator has explained the decision to approve a COVID-19 vaccine trial on the island and volunteered to take part himself.

Dr. Joseph Marzouca, chair of the Health Practice Commission, confirmed that Perseus Cayman Ltd has been granted approval for a small-scale human trial of a coronavirus vaccine, as reported by the Cayman Compass earlier this week.

He said the commission had conducted a comprehensive assessment of the science behind the proposed trial and was satisfied that it was safe.

Perseus is looking for 20 volunteers to test the vaccine, which has shown promising results in mice.

Marzouca released a statement Friday saying he had high confidence in the safety of the trial and has volunteered to take part himself.

He said the company involved, Perseus Cayman Ltd, had a strong track record of holding successful clinical trials on the island. The company’s previous research has involved ‘medical tourists’ and has been linked to immunotherapy for certain types of cancers.

Marzouca said in a statement Friday, “The Commission has done everything that it can to ensure safety and efficacy as it relates to this trial. We also have the legal power to change or halt the trial should a need become evident.”

The trial is the first in Cayman to focus on local volunteers.

The Health Practice Commission said that over the past few years it has granted around one licence a year for clinical trials related to medical tourism. Such approvals involve extensive vetting by the HPC itself, as well as international experts, the commission stated in a press release.

It stated, In addition to a comprehensive assessment of the science involved in the proposed COVID-19 trials, the Commission also weighed a number of key factors. Among these were: past successful trials by the same company, the involvement of highly respected local physician, Dr. Sook Yin, as the primary investigator, and the fact that the approach that the company is taking to the trial means that there is no risk of onward transmission of the viral disease.”

The Health Practice Commission is an eight-member independent body of medical practitioners, which includes representatives from the local professional healthcare associations, from local healthcare facilities and the Department of Planning.

The Department of Health Regulatory Services, which is responsible for registering healthcare entities, serves as a secretariat for the HPC. Only healthcare providers registered in the Cayman Islands may apply to operate medical trials on island.