Health and energy the way of the future
Michael Lee-Chin zones in on cancer treatment, nuclear energy
Hailed as a visionary and charismatic titan, indelibly changing the business landscape wherever he goes, Jamaican/Canadian billionaire businessman Michael Lee-Chin was on Thursday inducted into the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) Hall of Fame.
For him, though, it is important that stories such as his be told, because those without knowledge of his past could easily make assumptions about his present. Hence, he wants every achievement to be seen through the eyes of his late mother and their early beginnings where he described them both as being “adopted”.
For the trailblazing business mogul, knowledge of the past is critical, as it is the greatest guide to the present and the future.
“This is the message I want to give every Jamaican. It’s not where you started from that is important. We are powerful beyond measure and we must be careful with the exposures we have to dumb us down,” he advised.
Known as the man with the golden touch, Lee-Chin has created worldwide footprints through his strategic business ventures. Today, the 71-year-old is the chairman of NCB Financial Group and Portland Holdings, a privately held investment company in Ontario, Canada, as well as the chair of Jamaica’s Economic Growth Council.
The McMaster University-trained civil engineer is ranked number 12 of 15 top black billionaires by the highly respected Forbes magazine for 2022, with an estimated US$1.7 billion net worth.
Now he has set his sights on nuclear energy and cancer treatment, applying his tried and proven business model. Both are personal to him, as his mother, Hyacinth Gloria Chen, died from the disease nine months ago, and his best friend is currently undergoing cancer treatment.
Lee-Chin’s association with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) is expected to bring a new frontier to cancer treatment.
It was a call from his friend to give him the news that he had prostate cancer that pushed Lee-Chin into this new area of business.
NEW AREA OF BUSINESS
He recalled how his friend’s PSA reading was still very high, even after high levels of radiation, replacement hormone therapy and prostatectomy. The doctors in North America told him they could do nothing else there, and informed him about an advanced treatment that was available in Germany.
It was then that Dr Richard Baum, a medical doctor with a PhD in Nuclear Medicine who uses Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Therapy (PRRT) in treating patients, and Lee-Chin’s paths would cross. They would meet in the United States, and shortly after in Germany on the invitation of a friend of Dr Baum.
Fast-forward sometime later and Portland Holdings would become one of the largest shareholders in the privately owned biotechnology and radiopharmaceutical group of companies, Isotopen Technologien Munchen (ITM), which is dedicated to the production and global supply of targeted diagnostic and therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals and radioisotopes for use in cancer treatment.
The business genes and genius in the visionary Lee-Chin began ticking. He saw endless possibilities, including the growth of Jamaica’s health tourism industry, as cancer patients would be able to access the groundbreaking treatment, along with therapeutic wellness and recovery.
Lee-Chin says the revolutionary cancer treatment will eventually become available on the global market; however, patients are only currently able to access it in the US, Canada and the UK.
Most wealthy countries are those with oil, which excludes Jamaica, which is rich in sun and wind energy. The seemingly unchecked quest for development, with heating consequences and an increasing reliance on energy, puts the energy crisis issue on the table.
According to Lee-Chin, the world’s apparent insatiable appetite for energy is leaving a devastating footprint, impacting world climatic conditions which are leading to a scorching earth.
The only way to change that, said the businessman, is for a reduction on the demand for fossil fuel and with the United Nations’ 2050 net zero carbon footprint just two and a half decades away, self-regulation is critical, but investments in nuclear energy is the way of the future.
That’s where Lee-Chin comes in.
The future generation must be given a legacy on which they can build, and he wants to be part of leading the change.
“The only way to fulfil that aspiration (net zero by 2050) is to replace fossil fuel with nuclear energy. It’s the only way, because nuclear has zero carbon footprint. Zero. Our problems with carbon are a function of our insatiable need to consume. You can’t go to a country and say to the country ‘don’t have your people consume anymore’,” Lee-Chin shared with The Sunday Gleaner.
“When you talk about nuclear, people get scared and say ‘ooh, it’s a bomb’. But that’s a misconception, and that is a function of three experiences we have had in the last few years of recent memory. One is Fukushima in Japan; two, Chernobyl in Ukraine; and Three Mile Islands in America. But they were old technology. The new technology replacement, nuclear plant is referred to as Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). Those are the modern reactors and they are now very safe. They can be manufactured in a plant and shipped en masse.”
The world must get over its fears for nuclear or “we will all die from carbon”, he charged.
The businessman continued, “Nuclear is not unsafe. So we have an opportunity in Jamaica. Having energy is really the basis for industrialisation. We will have to get off the fossil fuel diet and get on to nuclear. So we now have an opportunity to put in SMRs in Jamaica, where we can now have a source of energy around which we can have energy security and independence.”
The public education must start now, he beseeched, noting that every country has to get on the bandwagon now.
“We may as well figure out how we are going to do it. It must be part of our energy mix, solar and wind, and we have an opportunity to get energy independent,” he stated.
If Jamaica had its own source of energy, bauxite dirt would not be sent to Mississippi and British Colombia for processing to create aluminium. With a source of inexpensive and consistent energy, he said, Jamaica could make more money from bauxite than just receive a “change”. Investments will come with reliable energy, he stated, adding that entrepreneurs like himself match supply with demand whenever a business opportunity arises.
CNL in Canada has been using nuclear for medical and clean air purposes for 75 years, with some 1,000 engineers and 600 PhD nuclear scientists. But it has not had a business development focus; hence, Portland Holdings has become that arm that will take the company global.
Michael Lee-Chin believes that there should be an agreement among political parties in Jamaica that there are things they will not fight about.
“The problem that we are having is stagnation. What we need in Jamaica is growth. In fact, when I left in the 1970s we had 11 per cent growth, and the next year six per cent. I coined the term ‘five in four’ (achieving five per cent growth in Gross Domestic Product [GDP] within four years) – we need that type of sustainable growth to pull us out of the mess that we are in. No growth sends us in the negative spiral that we have now. We need growth. We need growth. We need growth,” Lee-Chin emphasised.
“I want to be known as someone who does well by doing good,” Michael Lee-Chin declared.
He recommends his YouTube video ‘Life is not Linear’ to all young persons for an understanding of what they must do in order to reach their greatest level of self-actualisation.
All his life he has been working for the zenith of the business seat he currently occupies, and he will not stop now.
The business mogul forever has “one love” for his beautiful, effervescent Jamaica, and urges fellow citizens to love country, each other, and set high standards.